High-energy cosmic rays: You better duck

Cosmic Rays have a mysterious-sounding name, and live up to it. Even their history is intriguing.

Their presence was first suspected over a century ago, when physicists noticed that electrically charged laboratory objects slowly lost their charge for no apparent reason. Some electrical entity was apparently sneaking into the lab and neutralizing these critters. That it came from the sky was not at all obvious until 1912, when Austrian physicist Victor Hess carried a charge-measuring instrument aloft in a balloon, and found that charges changed as he ascended. The culprit was assumed to be some kind of invisible . . .

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