(ORDO NEWS) — The strange gap between theoretical predictions and experimental results in a major neutrino research project could be a sign of the elusive “sterile” neutrino – a particle so quiet that it can only be detected by the silence it leaves behind.
This is not the first time the anomaly has been observed, adding to previous experimental data hints at something strange in the world of neutrino research. This time it was discovered during the Baksan Experiment on Sterile Transitions (BEST).
Unequivocal evidence of a hypothetical sterile neutrino could give physicists a reliable candidate for the mysterious source of dark matter in the universe. On the other hand, it may just come down to a problem in the models used to describe the bizarre behavior of the old-school neutrino.
Which will also become an important moment in the history of physics.
“The results are very exciting,” says Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist Steve Elliott.
“This definitely confirms the anomaly that we observed in previous experiments. obviously. Currently, there are conflicting results about sterile neutrinos. If the results show that fundamental nuclear or atomic physics is misunderstood, that would be very interesting too.”
Despite being among the most abundant particles in the universe, neutrinos are notoriously difficult to capture. When you have almost no mass, no electrical charge, and only communicate your presence through the weak nuclear force, it’s easy to slip through even the densest materials unhindered.
The ghostly movement of the neutrino is not its only interesting quality. Each particle’s quantum wave transforms as it moves, oscillating between characteristic “flavors” that echo their negatively charged particle counterparts, the electron, muon, and tau.
Neutrino Oscillation Studies at Los Alamos, USA The National Laboratory in the 1990s noticed gaps in the timing of this switching, which left room for a fourth flavor that would not even cause pulsations in a weak nuclear field.
Under the veil of silence, the sterile flavor of the neutrino will only be noticeable through a short pause in its interactions.
BEST is shielded from cosmic neutrino sources under a mile of rock in the Caucasus Mountains in Russia. It is equipped with a two-chamber liquid gallium tank that patiently collects neutrinos erupting from the irradiated chromium core.
After measuring the amount of gallium that became an isotope of germanium in each tank, the researchers could work backwards to determine the number of direct collisions with neutrinos as they vibrated with their electron flavor.
Similar to the Los Alamos experiment’s own “gallium anomaly”, the researchers calculated that germanium was one-fifth to one-fourth less than expected, hinting at a deficit in the expected number of electron neutrinos.
This does not mean with certainty that neutrinos briefly acquired a sterile taste. Many other searches for the pale little particle have failed, leaving open the possibility that the models used to predict transformations are misleading on some level.
This in itself is not bad. Corrections to the basic structure of nuclear physics could have significant implications, potentially revealing gaps in the Standard Model, which could lead to an explanation of some of the great mysteries of science that remain.
If this is indeed a sign of a sterile neutrino, we might finally have evidence for the existence of material that exists in vast quantities but creates only a gravitational hole in the fabric of space.
Whether it’s the sum of dark matter or just part of its puzzle depends on further experimentation with the spookiest ghost particles.
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