Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Ghost Particle

No, not the often-used "god particle" that was designated to the Higgs, but rather the "ghostly" particle being used to describe neutrinos.

This NPR review of Ray Jayawardhana's book "Neutrino Hunters" has some basic intro to the history and mysteries of neutrinos if you are not familiar with it. And it is certainly true that, unlike the Higgs, the study of neutrinos has not received the same amount of publicity that it should have.

Neutrinos rarely get the press they deserve. Writers love to wax breathless about Higgs Bosons, antimatter, hypothetical thingies like tachyons (faster-than-light particles) and, of course, whatever makes up Dark Matter. But the ghostly neutrino turns out to be essential to everything from the physics of the early universe to the fusion reactions that keep the sun burning to the supernovas that light up the cosmos.

But as important, while the US has completely closed down all high energy collider physics, neutrino physics is the one area in which it still has a lot of involvement, both within the US and outside. Current projects within the US such as MINOS, NOvA, etc. are pushing our knowledge in neutrino physics, and future projects such as LBNE should ensure, if it gets continued funding, that the US will have a strong involvement in neutrino physics study.

BTW, if there's any crackpot out there who thinks that by calling neutrinos as "ghost particle" allows them the poetic license of justifying the existence of "ghosts", then they'd better read an earlier blog entry I made on this. Don't laugh! You'd be surprised at the extent these crackpots will go to simply to justify their incoherent and faulty logic.


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