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The Nature of Reality

Sterile Neutrinos: The Ghost Particle’s Ghost

11 Jul 2014, 17:53 UTC
Sterile Neutrinos: The Ghost Particle’s Ghost
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What do you call the ghost of a ghost? If you’re a particle physicist, you might call it a “sterile neutrino.” Neutrinos, known more colorfully as... Read Full Post

What do you call the ghost of a ghost?
If you’re a particle physicist, you might call it a “sterile neutrino.” Neutrinos, known more colorfully as “ghost particles,” can pass through (almost) anything. If you surrounded the Sun with five light years’ worth of solid lead, a full half of the Sun’s neutrinos would slip right on through. Neutrinos have this amazing penetrating capability because they do not interact by the electromagnetic force, nor do they feel the strong nuclear force. The only forces they feel are the weak nuclear force and the even feebler tug of gravity.

The Perseus galaxy cluster, one of 73 clusters from which mysterious x-rays, possible produced by sterile neutrinos, were observed. Credit: Chandra: NASA/CXC/SAO/E.Bulbul, et al.; XMM-Newton: ESA
When Wolfgang Pauli first postulated neutrinos in 1930, he thought that his proposed particles could never be detected. In fact, it took more than 25 years for physicists to confirm that neutrinos—Italian for “little neutral ones”—were real. Now, physicists are hunting for something even harder to spot: ...

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