1936 Muon

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Carl David Anderson, Seth Neddermeyer particle physics Muon


A muon is a heavy electron, over 200 times heavier. Since electrons are so useful, you’d expect the muon to be even more useful; however, muons decay rapidly, like in about a couple microseconds.

Other work

Anderson discovered the positron, confirming Paul Dirac’s prediction of the existence of antimatter. Neddermeyer helped discover the positron and advocated detonating a nuclear bomb by implosion with conventional explosives, which was the means of detonation of the bomb we dropped on Nagasaki and of most modern nuclear weapons. Both Anderson and Neddermeyer studied particles contained in cosmic rays and particles generated by cosmic rays hitting Earth’s atmosphere.

Muon fusion

Muons may replace electron in hydrogen atoms where they can catalyze fusion. But the energy released by the fusion is far less than is required to produce the muons.

Muon power

To produce a whole lot of muons, you could smash hadrons into hadrons using a particle accelerator, which is expensive and impractical. But high-energy cosmic rays hitting the atmosphere create over a thousand muons per square foot per minute hitting Earth at nearly the speed of light, so why not use magnetic fields to focus muons that rain down upon us anyway, and use them to generate power? We could be rich!

When muons replace an electrons in hydrogen, because of the increased mass of the muons, the atoms contract, which lets them get 196 times closer together, increasing the probability of nuclear fusion.

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