Universe puzzle piece found

2010-06-01 11:17
Geneva - Research scientists announced on Monday they had identified the missing piece of a major puzzle involving the make-up of the universe by observing a neutrino particle change from one type to another.

The Cern physics research centre near Geneva, relaying the announcement from the Gran Sasso laboratory in central Italy, said the breakthrough was a major boost for its own LHC particle collider programme to unveil key secrets of the cosmos.

According to physicists at Gran Sasso, after three years of monitoring multiple billions of muon neutrinos beamed to them through the earth from Cern 730km away, they had spotted one that had turned into a tau neutrino.

Behind that scientific terminology lies the long-sought proof that the three varieties of neutrinos - sub-atomic particles that with others form the universe's basic elements - can switch appearance, like the chameleon lizard.

The discovery is important, scientists say, because it helps explain why neutrinos arrive at earth from the sun in apparently far smaller numbers than they should under the Standard Model of physics that has held sway for some 80 years.

Concrete evidence

The fact that neutrinos are now proven to switch identities - as posited by two Moscow scientists in the late 1960s based on earlier work by a US physicist - suggests that other types of neutrinos could exist but slip detection.

In its turn, specialists say, this could help shed light on what is the dark matter that makes up about a quarter of the universe alongside the some 5% that is observable and the remaining 70% invisible "dark energy".

"This is really exciting because it shows that there are things beyond the Standard Model," said James Gillies, spokesperson for Cern - the European Organisation for Nuclear Research on the border between Switzerland and France.

The search for concrete evidence of dark matter and of what it might be is part of the work of Cern's LHC, or Large Hadron Collider, the world's biggest scientific machine that began operation near full force at the end of March.

But the beaming of muon neutrinos to the Italian centre is not part of the LHC experiment. The beam is directed south under the Alps from another, smaller, Cern particle accelerator.

Cern quoted Lucia Votano, director of the Gran Sasso laboratories near the town of L'Aquila 112km south of Rome that was hit by a devastating earthquake in April 2009, as saying that its work had achieved its first goal.

Scientists there were confident that the detection in the centre's Opera experiment of a tau neutrino would be followed by others showing that neutrinos can change, she said.

Work on the behaviour of neutrinos has already brought Nobel prizes to late US scientist Ray Davies, who first recorded in the 1960s that fewer were coming from the sun than current theories of the universe predicted.

He shared the prize in 2002, at the age of 87 and four years before his death, with fellow US researcher Ricardo Giacconi and Japanese physicist Masatoshi Koshiba for the contribution to astrophysics.

Read more on:    cern  |  science
NEXT ON NEWS24X

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
12 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Tuesday Kuils River - 09:53 AM
    Road name: Polkadraai Road Eastbound
    ROADWORKS between the R102 Van Riebeeck Road and the R310 Baden Powell Drive exit - DELAYS
  • Tuesday Goodwood - 09:10 AM
    Road name: N7 Vanguard Drive Southbound
    DELAYS towards Voortrekker Road
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2 TV Series for R250

Get 2 TV Series box sets for R250 and save up to R148! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing deals on beauty & fragrances

Save up to 30% off beauty and fragrances. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing deals on electronics!

Save up to 35% on electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Samsung Galaxy S III 16GB

There are no straight lines in nature. The Samsung  GALAXY...

From R3795.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Something may come up to alert you of your security needs. It may be that you need to create a better structure for your finances...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.