Monday, May 14, 2018

"Ravens cause blips in massive physics instrument at Hanford"

Any earthly sound — a truck rumbling past, the humming of a refrigerator in a nearby building, or the distant flutter of a plane’s propellers — can drown out the faint whispers from the cosmos that the Nobel Prize-winning project was designed to detect.


Schofield had seen the big, black corvids at the site many times. On hot days, they often perched on frost-covered pipes connected to a nitrogen cryopump that helps maintain a vacuum inside the L-shaped instrument’s concrete arms, each 2.5 miles long.

When Schofield and his colleagues investigated on a 100-plus-degree day, they found the pipes covered with peck marks, and even spotted one bird in the act of scraping its beak through the frost. “They peck for a while and make themselves a snow cone,” he said.