Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Neutrino speculations

The New York Times > Science > Tiny, Plentiful and Really Hard to Catch

Another open question is whether neutrinos play a role in the imbalance of matter and antimatter. If the early universe had contained equal amounts of the both, everything would have been annihilated, leaving nothing behind to form stars and galaxies.

Among quarks, which form protons and neutrons, physicists have observed a subtle matter-antimatter imbalance, called CP violation, in the behavior of particles known as mesons. "That CP violation is completely inadequate to explain the universe that we see," Dr. Kayser said.

So physicists suspect that there must be CP violation elsewhere and that the oddity of neutrinos suggest they could be a source. That, in turn, leads to speculation of yet more new types of neutrinos - very heavy ones that existed only in the very early universe - and the decay of those heavy neutrinos created the preponderance of matter.

Then come even wilder ideas - that neutrinos play a role in the mysterious dark energy that is pushing the universe apart or that neutrinos could be used for interstellar communication.
Interstellar communication? A future SETI project no doubt.

The article describes the Soudan mine neutrino detector. We took the mine tour once with 4 yo and a 2 yo. Our 4 yo was acting up so we missed the pre-trip orientation. We went out with our group expecting a sedate ride in a mine train -- as in our previous mine tour experience. They stuffed us in a metal box, turned out the lights, and dropped us into the earth. You'd be surprised how quiet children can be when their survival instinct kicks in.

Not to mention the bats, the background radiation, and the little trick with the the jackhammers in the dark (no sunlight at the bottom of the earth). Yes, I really recommend the mine tour. Tell 'em I sent you.

No comments: