Gamma Ray Bursts, Neutrinos and CAGW – a step shift?

21 April 2012

At… .. Peter Warlow's bogeyman features heavily in this post on where might the focus have shifted from proper science to political hype – when did the attraction of dosh swamp the pursuit of knowledge, one might say.

Over at new insights-into-origin-of-cosmic-rays/ … in 1912 Victor Hess used baloons to measure radiation levels in the Earth's atmosphere. He found higher levels as the baloon rose higher in the sky and concluded radiation was penetrating the atmosphere from outer space. It became known as cosmic rays – charged atomic particles raining down from space. What might their origin be? Well, there are galactic cosmic rays and there are high energy cosmic rays. It is the latter this post, and the paper in Nature (April 19th) it was based upon, are interested in, and not the former. High energy cosmic rays are thought to originate from either black holes at the centre of galaxies or from gamma ray bursts that astronomers can see evidence for in telescopes. An experiment was done to find out if the latter was true, by capturing neutrinos at the Icecube lab on Antarctica, a state of the art resource shared by various nations. It is thought neutrinos are produced in the inter-action of protons and photons in the gamma ray burst fireball – but the model they base this hypothesis upon is sadly lacking as no neutrinos were found. Such cosmic rays are electrically charged particles that strike Earth from all directions and require intense energy to instigate – so what has gone wrong? Maybe the number of neutrinos required from the model is too high – or neutrinos themselves have a more exotic origin and possibly may even be non-existent. In any case, the model predicted neutrino capture by Icecube but none appeared. I suppose the next step is to look at black holes – but first they've got to find them.

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