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IMPORTANT: Neutrinos being pumped into Earth by particle accelerators nearly 1000X more energetic than those from the sun!

Anonymous Coward
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03/17/2011 05:11 PM
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IMPORTANT: Neutrinos being pumped into Earth by particle accelerators nearly 1000X more energetic than those from the sun!
Were you aware that many particle accelerators, especially CERN, have the capability to produce powerful neutrino beams? Did you know that they actually send this beam through the earth to neutrino detectors stationed hundreds of miles away? Everyone seems to be worried about the energies of particles colliding in the LHC, but to me, the real worry may be the neutrino beam and what it might be doing to the Earth.

A little background (skip to conclusion if you don't care about the details)...

What is a neutrino?

Neutrinos (more precisely, anti-neutrinos) were postulated by Pauli as a means of preserving the conservation of energy involved in the beta-decay of a neutron:

n ---> p+ + e- + v-e*

where v-e* is the symbol for the electron anti-neutrino.

In the solar furnace, the proton-proton fusion process produces neutrinos when two protons convert to neutrons and form a helium atom

p+ + p+ ---> 4-He + e- + v-e

where v-e is the symbol for the electron neutrino.

The neutrino/anti-neutrino is a neutral, almost massless particle that carries away some of the energy liberated when a neutron converts into an electron and a proton or vice-versa.

Due to it's small size and absence of electric charge, the neutrino is very difficult to detect at low energies. However, as the energy goes up, the probability of detecting neutrinos goes up as well. The detectors used for these little guys are absolutely enormous. They are located deep underground in large tanks lined with photomultiplier tubes that are able to see the flash of light produced when a neutrino knocks into an electron generating a superluminal cone of light.

Neutrino flavors

The electron has higher-energy analogs - the muon and the tau lepton. Both of these can decay into electrons, releasing muon-neutrinos and tau-neutrinos, respectively.

u ---> e- + v-mu + v-e*
tau ---> e- + v-tau + v-e*

where u is the muon, v-mu is the muon-neutrino; and tau is the tau lepton and v-tau is the tau-neutrino.

The neutrino mystery arose because observations of neutrinos coming from the sun did not match the theoretical predictions. In the early days, experiments only had the capability to detect the lower energy electron-neutrinos. However, time after time, the experiments detected only a small fraction of the expected number of these.

Neutrino oscillations

The shortfall in electron-neutrinos coming from the sun prompted theorists to propose that neutrinos change their flavor when passing through matter. It follows from the theory that electron-neutrinos produced in the core of the sun change into muon- and tau-neutrinos as they pass through the sun. It wasn't long before higher sensitivity experiments were setup to detect muon-neutrinos. And indeed, these experiments detected muon-neutrinos just as expected. However, this did not prove the oscillation theory.

Particle accelerators save the day

This is where the story gets a bit scary...

So, scientists needed to show that neutrino oscillation is indeed a real phenomenon. The only way to do that was to shoot a known neutrino beam at a detector located hundreds of miles away and deep underground. This has been done many times with different particle accelerators starting with the Fermi lab accelerator in the mid-90s. The accelerators can be tuned to produce only one type of neutrino - so the beam can be either an electron-neutrino beam or a muon-neutrino beam. This has allowed scientists to find evidence of neutrino oscillation. Neutrinos emitted from a muon-neutrino beam were detected as electron-neutrinos.


The very serious potential problem I see here is the tremendous energy of the beam relative to those we receive from the sun. For example, the CERN beam runs at about 17 GeV whereas the sun spits out neutrinos at a mere 20 MeV (see [link to arxiv.org] and [link to lappweb06.in2p3.fr] The neutrinos from the sun are almost 1000 times less energetic than the CERN beam! Ok, but there is also another problem. The CERN beam typically produces muon-neutrinos. The earth does not receive significant quantities of muon-neutrinos from any cosmic source. Something entirely new is being pumped into the earth!

So, are you following me? The question is, what could these high energy muon-neutrinos be doing to our earth? As I mentioned, the higher the energy the more likely the neutrino is to interact with matter. Could these muon-neutrinos be influencing the rate of radioactive decay inside the earth? There is already some evidence that neutrinos can do this (see [link to news.stanford.edu]

I personally find it almost poetic (albeit frightening and disturbing) that mankind could possibly destroy the earth with the most subtle of energies. A simple neutrino with almost no mass and no electric charge - a ghost that could haunt us all soon.
Anonymous Coward
User ID: 1102470
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03/17/2011 05:13 PM
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Re: IMPORTANT: Neutrinos being pumped into Earth by particle accelerators nearly 1000X more energetic than those from the sun!
Nuetrinos are part of the group of particles genrally called W.I.M.P.s...Weakly Interacting Massive Particles.

Billions and billions of nuetrinos pass straight through each and every one of us every second of every day....they RARELY interact with normal matter.