Feeds

The mystery of the vanishing neutrinos

Massive...but tiny

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Physicists have confirmed enigmatic sub-atomic neutrino particles do indeed have mass. Seemingly paradoxially, the MINOS experiment at the huge underground Fermilab accelerator in Illinois corroborated the fact by showing that they disappear.

The multinational team sent a high-intensity beam of neutrinos from Fermilab through 450 miles of solid rock to the Soudan detector in a former Minnesota iron mine. Neutrinos are so small and weakly interacting they can pass through the entire planet uninterfered with.

The scientists say that if their neutrinos had no mass, long thought to be a strong possibility, they would have detected around 180 interactions. Instead, just 92 were observed. UK-based Keith Mason, CEO of PPARC, said: "The MINOS experiment is a hugely important step in our quest to understand neutrinos."

The MINOS finding is consistent with neutrino oscillation explanation of the particle's odd properties.

Under this hypothesis, muon neutrinos, the type beamed out by the Fermilab emitter switch into one of the other two flavours; electron neutrinos and tao neutrinos. It's called oscillation because the changes can work back and forth.

Things get pretty weird in the quantum world.

Once emitted a muon neutrino will become a mixture of two, or all three, flavours as it sails along. For the maths of this explanation to work the different forms must have different, and therefore non-zero, masses.

So the MINOS team's vanishing muon neutrinos fit in nicely with this and indicate neutrinos do have a mass. Et voila! Easy-peasy.

The study puts lots of...ahem...weight behind neutrino oscillation by repeating work done in Japan at a similar Big Science operation.

Neutrinos are a hot ticket in particle physics research. Boffins are currently constructing the Rik Waller of detectors at the South Pole from a cubic kilometre of ice to investigate neutrinos from outside the Solar Sytem. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.