Muons are subatomic particles that are produced when cosmic rays collide with particles in the Earth’s atmosphere. They are commonly referred to as “fat electrons” due to their heavier mass, being 207 times that of electrons. Muons are highly unstable, existing for only 2.2 microseconds, but they can travel through large amounts of matter before being absorbed. On average, 10,000 muons reach each square meter of the Earth’s surface every minute.

Properties of Muons

Muons are fundamental particles and a part of the lepton group. As leptons, they are not made up of even smaller pieces of matter and are affected by only three of the four fundamental forces in the universe. Muons are highly energetic and move at nearly the speed of light, allowing them to travel far before decaying into electrons and neutrinos.

Applications of Muons

Scientists have found several practical uses for muons in various fields. Muons can help detect dangerous nuclear material and see into damaged nuclear power plants. They have also been used for archeological purposes, such as peering inside large, dense objects such as the pyramids in Egypt. Muons have even been used to find potentially hazardous small density anomalies in the fortress wall of Xi’an.

Muons and Natural Background Radiation

Muons created in the atmosphere constantly hit the Earth’s surface and pass through almost any substance, reaching far below the surface of the Earth. Approximately one muon hits every square centimeter of the Earth every minute at sea level, with this rate increasing at higher elevations. Ultrasensitive detectors, including some neutrino and dark matter experiments, are placed deep underground to minimize the effect of atmospheric muons.

Muons are fascinating subatomic particles with a variety of practical uses in fields such as nuclear power, archeology, and particle physics. These highly energetic particles provide valuable insights into the universe and have the potential to be used in new and exciting ways in the future.

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