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No. 73: Jan-Feb 1991

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New Kinds Of Matter Turns Up In Cosmic Rays

"Japanese physicists claim to have found evidence of 'strange matter' in cosmic rays. Their detectors have recorded two separate events, each of which can be explained by the arrival of a particle with a charge 14 times as great as the charge on a proton, and a mass 170 times the proton's mass. No atomic nucleus -- made of protons and neutrons -- exists that matches this description, but these properties are precisely in the range predicted for so-called quark nuggets, which physicists believe may be made of a type of material dubbed strange matter."

(Gribbin, John; "New Kind of Matter Turns Up in Cosmic Rays," New Scientist, p. 22, November 10, 1990.)

The original report appeared in Physical Review Letters, 65:2094, 1990. In it, the Japanese scientists describe their balloon-borne equipment, proving that one does not need fancy spacecraft to make important discoveries.

The key feature of the quark nugget is its very high mass-to-charge ratio. Where do quark nuggets come from? The theoreticians surmise that they may be created when neutron stars collide or, perhaps, they are left over from the hypothetical Big Bang.

From Science Frontiers #73, JAN-FEB 1991. 1991-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987