Neutrinos spotted bouncing off nuclei for the first time

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Neutrinos spotted bouncing off nuclei for the first time

We are surrounded by trillions of tiny particles called neutrinos that are possibly the most mysterious type of particle. They rain down on us continuously and after these particles go right through our body at the speed of light, they float back into the cosmos almost as if they never existed. Forty years ago, the possibility of neutrino interactions was predicted by many physicists. However, it was not until now that the concept was supported with evidence. Scientists have found a new way to measure this interaction. In a study published in Science, researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) realized experimentally what was predicted four decades ago.

It’s even more interesting to note that a device the size of a jug was used to measure the interactions instead of some giant detector. In the study, neutrinos of three different types - electron, muon, and tau - were seen bouncing off atomic nuclei. All three interacted with atomic nuclei in different ways. These interactions are rare, but are the only means to observe neutrinos.

Most physicists agree that the results are exciting. Daniel Freedman, a theoretical physicist emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, and the originator of the theory called coherent elastic neutrino-nucleus scattering, said, “It’s a real thrill that something that I predicted 43 years ago has been realized experimentally.” Considered a great advance in science, the latest findings pave the way for more advanced research, dark matter searches, and nuclear nonproliferation monitoring.

DOI: 10.1126/science.aao0990

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Published on: Aug 04, 2017


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