Neutrino Experiments

27 Jun 2010

www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/60568/ June 25th ... Neutrino experiments in an underground laboratory in Minnesota suggest neutrinos and anti neutrinos do not weight the same which might indicate the presence of an unknown force or a violation of Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity.

Neutrinos are nearly massless and lack an electric charge, ghostly particles that interact weakly with other kinds of matter, so much so that 50 million of them pass unimpeded through the human body each second of time. However, the experiment has very large margins of error but in spite of this the experiments suggest  a fundamentally new direction in thinking is required as far as sub-atomic particles are concerned - and the origin of the matter in the universe.

Current theories of particle physics is based on two assumptions. All known forces arise from interaction with neighbouring particles and they all obey Einstein's special relativity theory which holds that the speed of light and the laws of physics are always  the same regardless of a particle's speed or rotation. For that to hold true, particles and anti-particles, including neutrinos and their anti-partners, must have the same mass - but the experiments indicate they do not.

If the masses of neutrinos and anti-neutrinos differ then the symmetry of quantum field theory (charge, parity and time) is broken. In order to save the Einstein theory it is being proposed a new force is recognised which is thought to be less radical than ditching Einstein. This new force would endow matter with a new kind of  charge that would allow it to interact differently with neutrinos and anti-neutrinos.

Neutrino research is important, it is said, because they played a key role in forging the elements in the early universe and they govern how supernovae explode. The idea of saving the Einstein theory is an attempt to prop up the consensus theories in cosmology and astro-physics. It will be interesting to see which way scientists lean - redefine the group by sticking rigidly to the status quo or follow the link to somewhere new, and unknown.