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No. 13: Winter 1981

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A Funny Thing Happened Along The Mean Free Path

A little anomaly may go a long way. Accelerator experiments at Berkeley have again focussed attention on those few fragments from nuclear reactions that have unexpectedly short trajectories. About 6% of these fragments travel only about one tenth as far as prevailing physical laws say they should. These anomalously short mean free paths are not new, having first cropped up in 1954, but they have gone unexplained for 26 years. Current speculation is that the anomalous fragments somehow change their identities, making them more susceptible to collision (i.e., their collision cross sections spontaneously increase by ten times). But no known transformations of matter can do this! Consequently, we are left with the possiblity that some entirely new form of matter exists.

(Robinson, Arthur L.; "A Nuclear Puzzle Emerges at Berkeley," Science, 210:174, 1980.)

Comment. Just a few weeks ago, some nuclear physicists were saying that the advent of quark theory explained everything in their field.

From Science Frontiers #13, Winter 1981. 1981-2000 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