The Ghost Particles

Sergiu Vidican

Written by Sergiu Vidican
Posted in: Science
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Full of neutrinos

The neutrinos are all around us. What are those you ask? Well, I have to tell you that there are about two dozens or subatomic particles, and they are the smallest of them all. They come from lots of places, and they have been created by various events such as the Big Bang, the explosion of the stars, and the solar explosions as well.

They are everywhere around us, and they are inside of us as well. They travel with the speed of light, and there are in huge numbers. 100 trillions of these particles pass through our bodies each second. They can not be seen, and the scientists have stated that they can not detect them. The reason for that is the fact that the neutrinos pass through every solid objects. There is no device to capture them. Another problem is the fact that they are neutral, thus the have no electric charge, so they can not be captured with the aid of a magnetic or electric force. It is no surprise that they are considered to be ghost particles by the scientists. However, the scientists have decided not to give up, and in order to be able to capture them, they have created a much elaborated physical experiments. They have installed certain sensors bellow the ground, in order to distinguish them from the cosmic rays. The cosmic rays are subatomic particles just like the neutrinos, the only difference between them being the fact that the cosmic rays can not penetrate the earth, whereas the neutrinos can.

The detectors which have been placed in mines, and in tunnels, are one of the biggest hopes for the scientists when it comes to learning more about the universe. Boris Kayser, who is a theoretical physicist at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois, stated that he has no idea if the information about the neutrinos will be useful, or in what domains. It seems that the reason why the scientists are studying them is because they do not follow the rules of physics. They break them, and that is very confusing for the scientists. On top of that, they have stated that it is essential for them to understand more things about the neutrinos, as they would not be able to develop the theory about everything without that information. Kayser said that he is fascinated by them because they come from the outer space, and they are as old as our Universe. He hopes that by learning more about them, he will be able to learn more about the origins of the Universe, and about the Big Bang, the process which might have started everything.

It seems that the physicists suspected their existence even before they had proof that they were real. In 1930 they created an equation which would explain the concept of balance in the Universe, but there was one problem: they could not obtain the proper result to it. They stated that the nucleus of an atom should be able to gather just as much energy as it expands, but in reality it was losing more than it gathered. They could not understand the balance, so they stated that an invisible particle is restoring it. They finally reached to the conclusion that the neutrinos actually exist in 1950s, when they did an experiment which proved their existence. They placed two large water tanks near a nuclear reactor and thanks to a detector they were able to spot three neutrinos per hour.

Numerous other experiments continued, one of them spread over the course of 30 years. One of the biggest experiments occurred in Japan, where they performed it in a mine located at 3,300 feet bellow the surface of the earth, in a zinc mine. They created the detector called Super-K in 1996. The detector is a tank of water which can hold 50,000 tons of water. The walls of the tank are covered with 13,000 light sensors, which detect the blue flashes which occur when an atom smashes against a neutrino inside the water. Thanks to this experiment they were able to detect the origins of the neutrino, and they have reached the conclusion that most of them have come from the sun. Janet Conrad, who is a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, stated that the experiment was really exciting, as they had the opportunity of recreating the exact trajectory of the particle. The physicists hoped to detect more neutrinos than they did, and there was a reason why they could not meet the expectations. A similar experiment was conducted in Ontario, where the researchers installed a water tank deep inside of a mine. The water tank contained heavy water, which reacts much more easily with the neutrinos. They discovered that the neutrinos have the capacity of changing their characteristics, if you will, as the can shift from one stat to another, having three different states.

Thanks to this discovery they realized that there are other ways of detecting them, more precisely to “switch the channel”, in order to record each state. Based on this discovery, the scientists issued a theory where they said that the neutrino has no mass, just like an electron. In order to find out more about the neutrinos, the scientists are currently working on the Karlsruhe Tritium Neutrino Experiment, or the KATRIN. They will use this 200 tone device in order to find out more about the mass of the atom, and about the mass of the neutrinos. The huge device will begin its operations in 2012. The scientists hope that with the aid of that device they will be able to find out more about the events which took place in outer space, and about the colliding galaxies or supernovas. They want to analyze the neutrinos from the ground, and not from the outer space, and they once they will capture one they will analyze its route, in order to see where it came from, and to find out more about its history.11

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