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Issue 475, 21 January 2002

Origins of cosmic rays

The Royal Society's premier lecture in the physical sciences, the Royal Bakerian Lecture, is to be given at Leeds by former Astronomer Royal Sir Arnold Wolfendale, on cosmic rays, what they are and where they come from.

Sir Arnold Wolfendale has been a fellow of the Royal Society for 25 years and has had a lifelong interest in cosmic rays, which are the nuclei of atoms accelerated to high energies in, as yet unidentified, parts of the Universe. They have been raining down on the earth for millions of years, and although human beings are biologically adapted to withstand them, they are thought to have an impact on climate change.

The lecture will cover many aspects of the search for the origin of cosmic rays and is designed to be accessible even to a non-scientific audience.

Discovered in 1912, the so-called cosmic radiation comprises particles of energy up to the highest known to mankind. Even at low energies, however, their origin is subject to doubt and the higher one goes in energy the more uncertain their origin becomes, and the more problematical the particle masses. Sir Arnold Wolfendale will assess the situation and provide answers based on his own analyses.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Alan Wilson will chair the lecture, which takes place on Thursday 14 February at 5.30pm in the Rupert Beckett Lecture Theatre at the University. Admission is free and no advance booking is required. For further information, contact Ros Raistrick, tel 0113 233 3868 or email

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