The sterile neutrino: the failed experiment that opens a new chapter in the search for the origin of the universe
- ivy gosh
- Science reporter, BBC News
A new chapter in physics has opened, according to scientists who have been searching for an essential element in the universe.
Microboone, a large experiment carried out by more than 200 physicists from five countries at Fermilab National Laboratory, in the United States, with the aim of finding an elusive subatomic particle known as sterile neutrinoAnd An essential component of the matter that shapes our daily lives.
The experiment did not achieve its goal, but the failed research leads physicists to do so More interesting theories To help explain how the universe arose.
Mark Thompson, chief executive of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), which funds the UK’s contribution to the Microboone trial, described the result as “Exciting”.
This is because Many physicists base their theories on the possibility of sterile neutrinos.
“The result is really interesting because it has an impact on emerging theories around particle physics and cosmology,” Thompson told BBC News.
Neutrinos are subatomic particles that permeate the universe, but interact little with the world around us.
It’s like billions of illusions pass every second across the Earth, and we all live on this planet.
Neutrinos come in three types or “flavors”: electron, muon, and tau.
In 1998, Japanese researchers discovered that neutrinos change in a “flavor” to another while traveling.
The Standard Form, the great theory of subatomic physics, fails to fully explain the reason for this change in flavors.
Some physicists believe that figuring out why neutrinos have such a small mass, which is what allows them to change flavour, could give them a deeper understanding of how the universe works and how it originated.
Current theories suggest that shortly after the Big Bang, there were equal amounts of Matter and antimatter.
However, when matter collides with antimatter they violently annihilate each other, releasing energy.
If there were equal amounts of matter and antimatter in the early universe, they must have existed canceled each other.
Instead, most of the universe is made of matter, with Much smaller amounts of antimatter.
Some scientists believe the neutrino’s flavor change is related to the cosmic process that allowed some matter to survive the Big Bang and form planets, stars and galaxies.
In the 1990s, an experiment conducted by the US Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory observed that more neutrinos electrons were being produced than could be explained under the three-flavor change theory of neutrinos.
This finding was confirmed separately in another trial in 2002.
The fourth flavor
Then physicists suggested the existence of a the fourth satorAnd It’s called a sterile neutrino.
The researchers believe this shape of the particle could explain the overproduction of neutrino electrons and help understand why the particle’s flavor changes.
They were called sterile neutrinos because that would be expected don’t react With matter at all, while other neutrinos can, although rare.
The discovery of a sterile neutrino may be a discovery so far more important than Higgs boson Because, unlike other forms of neutrinos and the Higgs particle, a sterile neutrino is not part of the Standard Model.
The Microboone experiment was developed in a laboratory of 150 tons of machinery installed in a space the size of a truck.
Their detectors are very sensitive and their observations of the subatomic world have been compared to visuals High quality.
The team of scientists announced that after four analyzes of the data collected during the experiment, No evidence of sterile neutrinos emerged.
But the result is not the end of the story, but the beginning of a new chapter.
Just because they didn’t detect a sterile neutrino doesn’t mean that, says Fermilab researcher Sam Zeller contradiction on previous results.
“The above statements do not lie”And Dice.
“There’s something interesting going on that we still need to explain,” Zeller explains. “The data points us to possible explanations and points to something more complex and interesting, which is really exciting.”
Justin Evans of the University of Manchester believes that the mystery posed by the latest findings represents a turning point in neutrino research.
“Every time we look at neutrinos, it seems we find something new or unexpectedDice Evans.
“The Microboone results are taking us in a new direction, and our neutrino program will get to the bottom of some of these mysteries.”
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