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Scientists Blast Pyramids of Giza With Subatomic Particles to Reveal Its Secrets

Ancient mysteries could be unraveled with the most high-tech sensors.

by Meredith Rutland Bauer
Oct 21 2016, 10:00am

The pyramid where new caverns were discovered. Image: ScanPyramids

The Great Pyramids of Giza may seem as old as time itself, but cutting-edge technology is being used to help unravel its remaining mysteries.

Egyptian, Canadian, Japanese, and French researchers are using highly sensitive muon panels to sense those elementary particles to find undiscovered caverns inside the giant pyramids.

Representations of the passageways that the muon scans unveiled. Image: ScanPyramids

The ScanPyramids project announced last week it had discovered a cavern on the northern side of the Khufu Pyramid, which is possibly another entryway into the pyramid that had been later covered. They also found some chevrons, which are blocks in a V shape, which caused some pause.

"In ancient architecture, chevrons were not used for decoration, but they have had a very practical purpose: to protect a void and prevents the roof from collapsing. The question posed here was: why so many chevrons are put to protect such a small area at the beginning of the descending corridor?" according to a project press release.

Representations of the passageways that the muon scans unveiled. Image: ScanPyramids

Researchers found the cavern by setting up sensors that can detect muons, which are particles as small as electrons that can pass through matter, and measured their speed and direction to determine empty spaces in the pyramid.

Muons are typically studied in high-energy accelerators such as European Organization for Nuclear Research, better known as CERN, to better understand these particles, but they've also been used in other situations as a research tool. Muons have also been used to "see" inside an active volcano in Japan and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant after nuclear accident.

Muon sensor panels. Image: ScanPyramids

Researchers will continue to study these chevrons and will search for other caverns, according to the project.

Correction: This article originally omitted the involvement of French researchers in the project. We've since updated the story and regret the omission.

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