For nearly 650 years, the fortifications of the city of Xi’an served as a formidable Chinese barrier around the central city. At 12 meters high and up to 18 meters thick, they are impervious to almost everything except subatomic particles called muons.
Now, thanks to the ingenuity of Muons, it may be important that the walls that once protected the treasures of the early Ming Ming Dynasty – and are now a national architectural treasure in their own right – continue to stand for centuries more.
The precise detection method has produced the highest resolution muon survey yet produced of any archaeological structure, the researchers reported on Jan. 7. Journal of Physics. Scans revealed internal density fluctuations as small as a meter across within one section of Xi’an’s walls. Doubts are signs of the dangers of falsehoods or “finding and researching hidden archaeologically interesting structures,” says nuclear scientist Zhiyi Liu of Lanzhou University in China.
Muons are like electrons, only heavier. They rain all over the planet, produced with a burst of particles called cosmic rays that hit the atmosphere. Although muons can penetrate deep into earth and rock, they are scattered or absorbed depending on the material they encounter. Counting passers-by makes it useful for investigating the interior of volcanoes, scanning pyramids for hidden chambers and even searching for contraband embedded in x-ray impervious containers.SN: 4/22/22).
Although the muons are continuously descending, their number is small enough that the researchers had six detectors to collect enough data for 3-D scans of the valley.
Now it’s up to conservationists to decide how to address the ambiguous density, which could indicate dangerous lies or historical unpredictability, within Xi’an’s walls.
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