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Danger of Muons

  1. Oct 30, 2012 #1
    Are muons created in the atmosphere of earth through nucleosynthesis a danger. I am not asking how probable it would be for one to get down the the surface of earth but if one did could they be a dangerous to human cells? And also, would tauons be a danger to the human system if they would happen to strike a human?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 30, 2012 #2
    "Nucelosynthesis" isn't the word you want--muons are created in the atmosphere when it's hit by cosmic rays.

    Muons and taus with enough energy (such as those from cosmic rays) constitute ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation is only dangerous when there's a lot of it: a single particle hitting you can only damage a few molecules, but you are made of a huge number of molecules. But in principle, muons and taus have the potential to cause the same damage as ionizing radiation from regular radioactivity.
     
  4. Oct 30, 2012 #3
    There is a muon flux of about 1 cm-2 s-1 at sea level, so it would be fair to say that cosmic ray muons aren't particularly dangerous at this height as the probability of an interaction occurring would be quite low.
     
  5. Nov 1, 2012 #4

    mfb

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    The source says 1/cm^2/min, not second.
    However, it shows that muons do hit the ground all the time. They can induce mutations, but I would not call them dangerous - they is something nearly every living thing on earth experiences all the time.
    Taus decay too quickly to reach humans, unless they are produced right in them (for whatever reason). They decay into other high-energetic particles, which can ionize things.
     
  6. Nov 3, 2012 #5
    How much of ionizing radiation afflicting the genes of man comes from muons created by cosmic rays, how much comes from, say, potassium 40 in body, and how much comes from radon and radon daughters like polonium 210 in inhaled air?

    Are muons less dangerous than radon?
     
  7. Nov 3, 2012 #6

    mfb

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    @snorkack: See this article for an introduction. It is hard to answer questions which are so broad.
     
  8. Nov 3, 2012 #7

    Vanadium 50

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    The thing about environmental sources of radiation is that they depend on the environment. If you live in a radon-free home Denver and have a job as an airplane pilot, you probably get more radiation from muons than radon. If you live in a basement in a radon-rich house at sea level, it's probably the other way around.
     
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