Astrophysics: Where Is the Fat Proton From?

Spread over miles of desert near Albuquerque, shallow disks of special plastic material bake in the sun. Connected by wire to a central laboratory, they are scintillometers set out to watch for enormously powerful cosmic rays that smack into atoms in the high atmosphere and, as a result of the crash, spray the earth's surface with millions of subatomic particles. Despite the minute size of his quarry, Physicist John Linsley of M.I.T., who operates the ray trap, reported a tremendous catch: a shower of 50 billion particles.

According to Linsley's calculations, the primary ray that caused all the ruckus must...

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