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April 1, 2013 7:21 AM UTC Geneva, Switzerland
Scientists working with results from experiments on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) via the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) facility in Geneva, which straddles the border between Switzerland and France, have announced a finding that may eclipse headline efforts to verify the existence of the Higgs boson (God particle) - that elusive,. long-sought-after high-energy particle that completes the Standard model of nuclear physics by explaining how transitions between mass and energy occur. While sifting through gigabytes of data recorded for collisions registering in the teraelectron-volt realm, French researcher and Nobel Prize laureate Avril DeJourpremiér of the Université Blaise-Pascal, along with her team of postgraduate students Dubna První of the University of Ostrava, Czech Republic, and Einvier Zweitausenddreizehn of University of Heidelberg, discovered a surprisingly simple method for selectively generating fissile mass fragments of readily available heavy radioisotopes such as uranium-235 (U235). Under normal circumstances U235 (atomic number 92), which is used extensively for thermonuclear weapons in its highly enriched form (U235/U238 >= 0.85) and, for nuclear power generation in its less concentrated form, splits into two particles of unequal mass such as cesium-137 (Cs137, atomic number 55) and strontium-90 (Sr90, atomic number 38), both of which are highly unstable and themselves decay into other radioactive elements. The missing mass is released in the form of energy per Einstein's famous e=mc² equation. In their stable forms, both of those elements (Sc and Sr) are relatively abundant in nature and supplies are plentiful.
The Dejourpremiér team has determined that by controlling the angle and phase vector of a particle beam tuned to the anti-resonant frequency of a particular element's isotope, a uranium-235 nucleus can be selectively split so that one of the mass fragments has that element's atomic number; e.g., gold-202 (Au202, atomic number 79) along with aluminum-32 (Al32, atomic number 13). Conveniently, the mass-to-energy conversion is practically identical to that of the U235 --> Cs137|Sr90 fission, meaning that it would be useful in nuclear power generation while potentially supplying a limitless supply of gold and other precious metals used in manufacturing and jewelry. Creating a silver byproduct involves tuning the laser to yield silver-109 (Ag109, atomic number 47) and rhodium-125 (Rh125, atomic number 45), but the mass-to-energy conversion of that process is only 25% that of gold. Uranium-235 during its naturally occurring decomposition tends to produce two atoms of vastly different masses as with cesium|strontium and gold|aluminum, so achieving the silver|rhodium split has a very low probability and requires more energy to be pumped into the reaction than what is yielded as a result of the fission.
The key to determining fissile fragments is the mass-to-energy ratio of complex molecules that make up the particle beam, combined with the Fermi refractive index of the target nuclei. Yielding gold (Au) and aluminum (Al) byproducts, for instance, requires the use of a sulfur (S), astatine (At), and nitrogen (N) molecule of particular proportions to be revealed during public disclosure. A silver (Ag) and rhodium (Rh) reaction requires, specifically, a stream of lutetium (Lu), carbon (C), Iodine (I), fluorine (F), and erbium (Er) molecules.
The radioisotopes of gold and silver possess half-lives of approximately 1.6 x 10^10 seconds (500 years), so their application in industrial products with expected service lives of less than twenty-five years (cell phones, computers, toys, non-collectible jewelry) could potentially supplant the supply of ground-mined gold being used in today's processes. The team of investigators is working feverishly to determine whether other readily-available fissile isotopes would yield the silver|rhoduim split with a greater than break-even result and with isotopes that do not exhibit instability. Unlike the radiative energy released by the standard fission of U238, these tuned byproducts do not produce levels of ionizing radiation high enough to harm human tissue, bone, or organ cells. If successful, this miracle of modern day alchemy would have a profound impact on the precious metals market because those resources would no longer be "scarce."
Once full results are published in an upcoming edition of Nature magazine, there will undoubtedly be a worldwide rush to optimize the fission process to refine and ultimately commercialize the products. Patents applications have been filed with all major national and regional patent offices. Rumor has it that the team stands to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics and in Chemistry at this year's meeting in December in Oslo, Norway, with this being the first time in the history of the awards that a team of researchers has been simultaneously awarded prizes in two categories. John Bardeen, co-inventor of the transistor, is the only laureate to win same the prize category twice (physics in 1956 and 1972). Marie Curie is the only other person to win two awards (physics in 1903, chemistry in 1911).
Market and industry experts consulted on the discovery express a degree of cautious optimism over the announcement, but in the smoke-filled board rooms of investment firms plans are being laid for what could be a significant paradigm shift in modern financial and manufacturing markets. Precious metals traders have much to lose if a newfound abundance drives down historically high price levels for a wealth protection and leveraging device that is no longer a limited commodity. Talking up the dangers of "radioactive gold" has already begun in order to protect current hoards and to give inside players time to strategize effective methods to unload if necessary. 'Alchemy' may soon be the defensive buzz word du jour. Electronics industry materials scientists and engineers say the availability of tailored metals (metallurgy) at low cost will translate into highly improved electronics and electrical devices due to the high conductivity of gold and silver, and the oxidation-free nature of gold which assures reliable contacts in electrical connectors. High temperature superconductors would also benefit from low mass production costs, potentially negating the need to build new power generation plants by significantly reducing losses in transmission lines and transformers. The world awaits a verdict.
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