It won’t turn your smartphone into a cosmic death ray gun, but it might help forward a scientific project: CRAYFIS. I found out about it through the NPR website, but for all the details you should head over to the arXiv.org site, where the authors have published a paper titled “Observing Ultra-High Energy Cosmic Rays with Smartphones“.
In short: the app will turn your smartphone-at-rest into one of (hopefully) many networked particle detectors.
When a high energy cosmic ray hits the top of Earth’s atmosphere, it creates a shower of new energetic particles.
“So if we have a bunch of users nearby each other, all running the app, they will all see hits in their phone; they’ll see particles being detected by our app in their phone in the same moment,” says Whiteson.
And by analyzing the distribution of the particle shower detected by the phones, Whiteson says, the astrophysicists will learn more about the high energy cosmic ray that produced the shower.
That’s the idea, anyway.