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Neutrino Experiment Restores Standard Model Symmetry

kdawson posted about 7 years ago | from the eightfold-way dept.

Science 83

perturbed1 writes "A Fermilab press release announced that MiniBooNE's latest results have salvaged the Standard Model of particle physics. The experiment ruled out the simple neutrino oscillation interpretation of the 1990s LSND experiment. Neutrinos have a tiny amount of mass, required by their oscillations, as observed in solar, atmospheric, and reactor neutrino experiments. Combining this mass with the LSND experiment's results required the presence of a fourth but 'sterile' neutrino, breaking the 3-fold symmetry of particle families in the standard model." Nice to see some good news out of Fermilab after the CERN debacle.

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83 comments

Good news (4, Funny)

michaelmalak (91262) | about 7 years ago | (#18701247)

Can Fermilab next restore Newton's model? That speed of light thing is hampering processor speed and space travel.

Re:Good news (0)

jimstapleton (999106) | about 7 years ago | (#18701277)

I think they should raise the speed limit of light to 100c

(and as that will be too subtle for some, yes, it was a joke).

Re:Good news (2, Funny)

beckerist (985855) | about 7 years ago | (#18702025)

Basic Algebra:

x = 100x
x/x = 100

as 0/0 = [-infinity,infinity]
and [-infinity,infinity] contains 100
x can = 0

So, it's doable! Just make sure you get the speed of light to be perfectly 0 and I'll up that speed limit for you in a snap.

Re:Good news (1)

mengel (13619) | about 7 years ago | (#18709745)

Back to Jr. High School for doing it the hard way!

x = 100x
0 = 100x - x --- Subtract x from both sides
0 = (100 - 1)x -- Factor a little
0 = 99x ------- Oooh! Arithmetic!
0 = x --------- Divide through by 99...

Re:Good news (1)

Blublu (647618) | about 7 years ago | (#18713239)

Why do you even need to factor? It should be obvious to even the most dim-witted individual that 100x - 1x = 99x

Re:Good news (0)

QuantumG (50515) | about 7 years ago | (#18701305)

What is inertia, where does it come from? How do you explain it with particle physics? Start answering those questions and the speed of light stops being a barrier.

Re:Good news (2, Funny)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 7 years ago | (#18701353)

What is inertia, where does it come from?

Mine comes from nearly a decade in a sedentary job, and way too much cola over same time period. What does that have to do with the speed of light, though?

Re:Good news (1)

metlin (258108) | about 7 years ago | (#18710525)

Mine comes from nearly a decade in a sedentary job, and way too much cola over same time period. What does that have to do with the speed of light, though?

It's all that mass that you've gained over the years that's slowing light down. ;-)

Re:Good news (2, Informative)

Dr_Mic (975409) | about 7 years ago | (#18702015)

Actually, things without inertia (photons, for example) automatically go the speed of light. As a particle's energy increases (beyond rest mass energy), it becomes more "photon like" in that it asymptotically approaches the speed of light. So removing inertia will eliminate that inconvenient acceleration, but leave in place the ultimate speed limit.

Re:Good news (1)

QuantumG (50515) | about 7 years ago | (#18710085)

The question is: why? How do you explain this observed phenomona that things without inertia go the speed of light? Where does inertia come from? Einstein proposed a possible explaination [wikipedia.org] which he attributed to Mach (and Mach refused) but other than that little has been said about it since Newton (who say it as an intrinsic property). When we understand inertia, then we'll understand why the speed of light is a barrier and can think of practical ways future societies might get around it.

Re:Good news (1)

Dr_Mic (975409) | about 7 years ago | (#18712145)

no no no I was trying to point out that inertia and the light speed "barrier" are not one in the same. Inertia clues us in how things with mass cannot be made to go to the speed of light (it would take infinite energy/work). However, the very structure of space time prohibits FTL motion or even communication (unless you are willing to sacrifice causality: cause always precedes effect). As soon as you have FTL motion/communication, you have the equivalence of time travel (backwards in time)/ability to send messages into the past. And believe me, physicists are VERY reluctant to give up causality.

Re:Good news (1)

QuantumG (50515) | about 7 years ago | (#18712433)

causality and locality are already dead aint they?

anyway.. I'm quite happy to say we don't know enough to say one way or another whether or not the speed of light is a real barrier to an advanced civilization.

Exotic matter is believed to exist. Techniques for using energy to make the gravitational effects of exotic matter are believed to be possible. So wormholes and warp drives are not out of the question, theoretically.. but it's still an insanely difficult engineering proposition, even if we knew how to do it today we couldn't do it.

Re:Good news (1)

Dr_Mic (975409) | about 7 years ago | (#18713873)

causality and locality are already dead aint they?
Really? I missed the obituray. Got a journal citation? (something other than Cramer's interpretational abuse of "retarded wave functions" I hope.)

anyway.. I'm quite happy to say we don't know enough to say one way or another whether or not the speed of light is a real barrier to an advanced civilization.
Are you saying that there is significant doubt about relativity? Relativity is solid; "star trek" type interstellar voyages are beyond unlikely. You seem implying a doubt in relativity that does not exist within the physics community. There is I suppose in some technical sense we don't know for sure, but this is not like a late 1800's claim that man will never fly, this is an inherent limitation imposed by nature.

Exotic matter is believed to exist. Techniques for using energy to make the gravitational effects of exotic matter are believed to be possible. So wormholes and warp drives are not out of the question, theoretically.. but it's still an insanely difficult engineering proposition, even if we knew how to do it today we couldn't do it.
Wormholes may or may not exist within the context of general relativity, however the causality issue is still a VERY strong argument against. There is no observational evidence to support the existence wormholes, and the impression I have from my GR courses and a talk by Kip Thorne (admittedly some 20 years ago) is that they would be inherently unstable if they should manage to pop briefly into existence. Thorne's talk was basically about how, in principle, an arbitrarily advanced civilization might be able to hold a wormhole open.

Warp drives possible even in principle? Thats news to me, especially since even with (naturally or "artificially") curved space time, the geometry is locally Lorentz. This basically means that all the issues with flat space time (special relativity) for superluminal adventures still hold true with curved geometries.

Dark matter or energy wouldn't be expected to provide any magical means of providing infinite energy for FTL. They just differ in the details with which they provide curvature for space time.

Believe me, I'd love to think that we'll someday have an easy way of getting off this rock, we live in the universe we live in. The evidence is that the only way out there is the long slow route with no shortcuts.

Re:Good news (1)

joto (134244) | about 7 years ago | (#18708277)

Inertia is a fashion garment worn by ladies in the 1920s, but mostly forgotten today. Originally, it was spelled inner-tiara, but with time the word contracted into its present form: inertia. It originated in Paris, as every fashion-garment from the 1920s did. Physicists are still stumbling with how to explain fashion garments. Using the standard model, this task has proved extremely difficult. Most physicists agree that in order to explain fashion garments fully, a new theory is needed. Often this theory is called GUT, for Grand Unified Theory ("grand" means great, and "unified" because all the fashion houses need to work together). One candidate for GUT is string theory. It is popular because it's able to explain string bikinis, something most physicists enjoy studying. However, string theory is unable to explain bulkier garments, such as down jackets, or even a wide skirt.

It was earlier assumed that fashion trends would spread with the speed of light. Today, it seems clear that economics is usually the limiting factor. Mostly it's the delays involved in international money-transactions that limits the spread of new fashion garments. So it seems the speed of light has already stopped being a barrier.

Processor speed? (1, Offtopic)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | about 7 years ago | (#18701379)

Space travel I can understand, but don't you dare try to pin processor speed limits on the speed of light. If you want a fast computer, you can do it just fine under the present model. Simply compress 1 kg of matter into a black hole of radius 1.485e-27 m. In the 1e-19 seconds before evaportion due to Hawking radiation, you can perform 5e50 operations per second. It only gets you 1e32 total operations on 1e16 total bits, but it's fast. If you can't do that, you only have yourself to blame.

(Yeah, yeah, borrowed from here [wikipedia.org] .)

Re:Processor speed? (2, Funny)

alienmole (15522) | about 7 years ago | (#18702615)

Sounds pretty much like the last Intel P4 I had. Let me put it this way, in that context "smokin'" is not a compliment.

NOT good news! (4, Insightful)

YA_Python_dev (885173) | about 7 years ago | (#18701449)

This isn't exactly what most scientist would consider "good news". We already know that both the standard model and the general relativity are wrong or at least incomplete, but they continue to pass every experiment, including this one...

The reason they keep trying is because they hope to finally find something different from what those theories predict: this will probably open a very exciting period of progress for our understanding of the universe.

More infos: start from unsolved problems in physics [wikipedia.org] and click links.

IT IS good news!!! (0)

MrCoke (445461) | about 7 years ago | (#18701639)

You said it yourself: "this will probably open a very exciting period of progress for our understanding of the universe."

Re:IT IS good news!!! (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | about 7 years ago | (#18701721)

GP is right, it's NOT good news, it just breathes new life into something that is more description than theory. The Standard Model is just a "good story" of how the universe works, akin to the "earth, air, fire, water" model of elements (albeit with more predictive power) that was replaced by chemistry.

Re:IT IS good news!!! (1)

Lane.exe (672783) | about 7 years ago | (#18702487)

So what more do you want out of science? Science is empirical and descriptive; if you start introducing theoretical components that are non-empirical, you move out of science and beyond the realm of empirical verifiability. There be monsters.

Congratulations (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 7 years ago | (#18703459)

if you start introducing theoretical components that are non-empirical, you move out of science and beyond the realm of empirical verifiability. There be monsters.

You've just given a meta description of string theory.

Re:NOT good news! (2, Interesting)

Boghog (910236) | about 7 years ago | (#18701689)

We already know that both the standard model and the general relativity are wrong or at least incomplete.

Not trolling, but the above statement reminds me of the following quotation:
All models are wrong, some are useful.
http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/George_E._P._Box/ [wikiquote.org]

Re:NOT good news! (2, Insightful)

syntaxglitch (889367) | about 7 years ago | (#18701925)

Not trolling, but the above statement reminds me of the following quotation:
All models are wrong, some are useful.
http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/George_E._P._Box/ [wikiquote.org]
Indeed, that's exactly the point. The Standard Model is quite useful, but also "wrong" and (even worse) wrong in a rather boring sort of way. The problem is that to find a new model that's slightly less wrong, or at least a more interesting kind of wrong, we need to find ways in which the Standard Model is less useful.

Thus, yet more confirmation of its utility boils down to "that's great, but now what?"

Re:NOT good news! (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | about 7 years ago | (#18701897)

I consider it bad news from the viewpoint that unexpected results are much more exciting to everyone involved. If you have dedicated your life to the standard model then you might not be happy about it but it would certainly wake you up.

Re:NOT good news! (4, Insightful)

mstahl (701501) | about 7 years ago | (#18701953)

We already know that both the standard model and the general relativity are wrong or at least incomplete, but they continue to pass every experiment

(Emphasis mine). If that's true, then how do we "already know" that the standard model and GR are broken? The way that we tell if a theory is broken is by experimentation.

I know you're probably talking about the whole dark matter/energy debate, but neither of those means general relativity is broken, necessarily. They could be indications that general relativity needs some elaboration or, most likely, there exists circumstances where we can experimentally show it to be broken (i.e., not just by observing cosmology from afar but actually in a lab). If we haven't found those circumstances yet, experimentation is how we keep looking. The good news of this article is that one experiment's results, which if accepted would have required major rewriting of theories, were not reproducible. We're one step closer to explaining them.

Because they disagree (3, Insightful)

pavon (30274) | about 7 years ago | (#18702307)

If theory A predicts one thing and theory B predicts another then they can't both be right. You don't need an experiment to tell you that, logic is sufficient. Unfortunately, the situations in which they disagree are ones that we cannot easily reproduce or observe in nature. Until we do find such evidence we won't know exactly how they are wrong, or the correct way the reconcile them, but it doesn't preclude us from knowing that they are incomplete.

but neither of those means general relativity is broken, necessarily. They could be indications that general relativity needs some elaboration
Now you're just playing semantic games. Yeah, few established theories are ever shown to be completely wrong, just simplifications that only work in certain circumstances. As far as science is concerned "broken" and incomplete mean the same thing.

Re:Because they disagree (1)

AndersOSU (873247) | about 7 years ago | (#18703131)

If theory A predicts one thing and theory B predicts another then they can't both be right. You don't need an experiment to tell you that, logic is sufficient.
Are you sure? [wikipedia.org]

Re:Because they disagree (1)

joto (134244) | about 7 years ago | (#18708501)

By "logic", one usually means just that. That "logic" can also mean "a family of mathematical formalisms for describing systems involving truth-values or at least stuff that has some resemblance to truth-values" does not mean that quantum logic should be your first guess when you hear the word logic. Just as modulo-7 arithmetic should not be your first guess whenever you see a plus-sign.

Re:Because they disagree (1)

servognome (738846) | about 7 years ago | (#18708825)

As far as science is concerned "broken" and incomplete mean the same thing.
Then all science is "broken," since it will always be incomplete.
As an engineer something isn't "broken" until it stops working. That's why we still use Newtonian physics for solving simple problems, the theory may be fundamentally "broken," but for our interests it works well enough.

Re:NOT good news! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18702323)

They are most definitely broken, this is due to Relativity only working on large scales and Quantum Mechanics on small scales. No unification has been managed, and gravity can't be explained in small scales and quantum effects not in large ones usually. Thus why everyone is hoping to find the specific failings of the two theories, cause we just know they are incomplete.

Re:NOT good news! (1)

Frank Battaglia (787673) | about 7 years ago | (#18702431)

It's a problem of scale / energy levels. We know GR works for very big things with high gravity. We know the Standard Model works for small things with low gravity (but high in the other 3 forces). The problem is, they don't agree for things that are small and high gravity (e.g., black holes). Since thw two theories give different results, at least one of them has to be "wrong." The problem is finding a way of testing in these somewhat extreme circumstances (making a black hole is not as easy as you might think).

Re:NOT good news! (0)

Dan Ost (415913) | about 7 years ago | (#18704215)

(making a black hole is not as easy as you might think)

Legal departments do, however, offer a close approximation.

Re:NOT good news! (1, Informative)

Phleg (523632) | about 7 years ago | (#18702443)

The problem is that as stated, the Standard Model and General Relativity are mutually exclusive. As they stand, both imply the invalidity of the other. But General Relativity is great for analyzing big things, and the standard model for extremely tiny things. Both make predictions with surprising accuracy. But as stated, they're incompatible.

Re:NOT good news! (1)

ioshhdflwuegfh (1067182) | about 7 years ago | (#18704891)

The problem is that as stated, the Standard Model and General Relativity are mutually exclusive. As they stand, both imply the invalidity of the other. But General Relativity is great for analyzing big things, and the standard model for extremely tiny things. Both make predictions with surprising accuracy. But as stated, they're incompatible.
I'm happy then to inform you that there is the black hole radiation.

Re:NOT good news! (1)

Parlyne (884090) | about 7 years ago | (#18702511)

We already know that the Standard Model and GR are "broken" because we know of a major fundamental shortcoming of each. In the case of the standard model, the major dealbreaker is quite simply that it doesn't include any kind of description of gravity. Also, it has no way of accounting for the fact that neutrinos have mass. GR, on the other hand, we know to be broken because it isn't in any way quantum mechanical, which the universe is. Given that we know that our best models are not only broken, but irrevocably incompatible with each other, it would be very nice if we could actually see something (anything) which might give us clues as to what a more fundamental theory should look like. In principle, the way to do this would be to look for the effects of quantum gravity. Unfortunately, this would either require us to have some pre-existing quantum gravitational system to study or to use particle accelerators to speed up fundamental particles to so high an energy that the effects of gravity are a comparable size to those of the standard model forces. The first case is pretty much impossible, as the only quantum gravitational systems we know of at all are black holes and the big bang singularity; and, frankly, I don't see anyone trying to get either of those into their lab. In the second case, the effects of quantum gravity shouldn't really become significant until the particle has an energy equal to that of the Planck mass (~10^19 GeV). For comparison, the LHC at CERN, when it turns on, will accelerate protons to and energy of about 7000 GeV. A direct probe of quantum gravity would require a single particle with about the same energy as 1 quadrillion LHC protons. Again, this isn't likely to happen any time soon.

Re:NOT good news! (2, Informative)

shma (863063) | about 7 years ago | (#18703431)

The way that we tell if a theory is broken is by experimentation.

That is not entirely true. A theory which also gives infinite answers to certain questions, or answers which contract results from other (accepted) theories must be broken as well. For the standard model, however, we DO have results that conflict with observation. For example, there is the so called cosmological constant problem [wikipedia.org] . For GR, I assume the poster was referring to the problem of trying to integrate GR with quantum field theory. Most physicists accept that a full theory of the universe should describe gravity as a quantum phenomena.

Re:NOT good news! (1)

ioshhdflwuegfh (1067182) | about 7 years ago | (#18705025)

The way that we tell if a theory is broken is by experimentation.
That is not entirely true. A theory which also gives infinite answers to certain questions, or answers which contract results from other (accepted) theories must be broken as well.
That is not entirely true. Take for example the quantum electrodynamics: it's broken beyond repair and still very accurate in many experiments, but not all of them. Physics is also an experimental science.

Re:NOT good news! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18706713)

They are broken because they are mutually exclusive. Ofcourse, that assumes that the universe can't contain mutually exclusive elements. Nobody has ever proved that.

Re:NOT good news! (1)

Michael Woodhams (112247) | about 7 years ago | (#18709117)

As G.R. and Q.M. are contradictory, there must be a more complete theory (the "Grand Unified Theory") which simplifies to G.R. in the limit of large sizes and to Q.M. in the limit of small gravitational potentials.

We already see many other such simplifications in physics: Quantum mechanics simplifes to Newtonian mechanics in the limit of large sizes. General relativity simplifies to special relativity in the limit of no gravity. General relativity simplifies to Newtonian gravity in the limit of low velocities and low gravitational potential. Special relativity simplifies to Newtonian mechanics in the limit of low velocities.

The greatest challenge of modern physics is to find the GUT. We can't observe the conditions where it would be obvious (high gravitational potential and small size) because this is many orders of magnitude beyond the capabilities of our accelerators. One approach is to look for promising mathematical theories which simplify in the required ways to QM and GR, and then try to find predictions these theories make which we can observe. Another approach is to subject QM and GR to ever tougher tests, in the hopes of finding a discrepancy which will point the way to a theory.

Re:NOT good news! (1)

StoneTempest (920838) | about 7 years ago | (#18711989)

If that's true, then how do we "already know" that the standard model and GR are broken?
How do we know the Standard Model and GR are broken? Two words: quantum gravity.

Re:NOT good news! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18712485)

A physical theory is not "broken" if it fails to be a theory of everything. There is scope for every theory. There is no reason to say stupid bullshit like gr and standard model are broken. There is no experimental indication that they fail to describe anything within their scope incorrectly.

When you have observed phenomena that should be predicted by a theory, but the theory doesn't and you can't find any rational explanation, then you can start throwing around the word broken. We're not there yet with either theory.

And in reply to

How do we know the Standard Model and GR are broken? Two words: quantum gravity.
that might be string theory's goal, but loop quantum gravity doesn't seek to unify hep with gr. A theory of quantum gravity doesn't have to predict the standard model, but it does have to (a) recover gr in the classical limit, and (b) have direct evidence that more or less uniquely determines the theory.

Re:NOT good news! (1)

gertam (1019200) | about 7 years ago | (#18702087)


>The reason they keep trying is because they hope to finally find something different from what those theories predict: this will probably open a very exciting period of progress for our understanding of the universe.

I disagree. This is good news because finding the truth is good news. The purpose of Science is to find the truth (or as close an approximation as possible), not to find more Science to do. Whatever the reality of the Universe, discovery of that is what is important. If we find the Higgs boson (for example) right where the Standard Model says it should be, that is not bad news because it could be more interesting for scientists if it weren't true. That is good news because we know one more fact about the Universe.

Re:NOT good news! (0, Troll)

Jugalator (259273) | about 7 years ago | (#18702245)

The problem with scientists is that they need to adjust to the fact that Albert Einstein was an incarnation of God.

Bad News (1)

Bat Country (829565) | about 7 years ago | (#18703879)

I say it's bad news because the standard model is freaking boring.

I still hope to see real interstellar travel before I die (not sticking a bunch of corpsicles in a solar sail powered coffin and sending them out into deep space for a million years), and considering I'm 30 now, I hardly find that likely if the standard model turns out to be right.

Honestly, for those of us who want to see the human race EVER reach the stars (before we succeed in creating another Dark Ages or get smashed by a meteor), the worst news we could possibly get is that the standard model is spot on.

Re:Bad News (1)

joto (134244) | about 7 years ago | (#18708557)

Good luck in that. I try to have less loftier goals, such as saving humanity from war or famine, or something like that.

Re:Bad News (1)

Bat Country (829565) | about 7 years ago | (#18720563)

Way to look at the short term goal. Save the human race now so they can die later.

Seriously, perhaps you've heard of the Permian extinction? [wikipedia.org]

In the long run you can throw a billion dollars into a mismanaged charity to completely fail to feed the starving (because all the food is stolen by warlords), or you can possibly secure a future for the human race as a whole.

And just look how much good saving [wikipedia.org] humanity [wikipedia.org] from war [wikipedia.org] has done in the past.

I think it's easier to reach Alpha Proxima.

Re:NOT good news! (1)

ioshhdflwuegfh (1067182) | about 7 years ago | (#18704745)

This isn't exactly what most scientist would consider "good news". We already know that both the standard model and the general relativity are wrong or at least incomplete, but they continue to pass every experiment, including this one...
If you bothered to read the post you would have noticed:

The experiment ruled out the simple neutrino oscillation interpretation of the 1990s LSND experiment. Neutrinos have a tiny amount of mass, required by their oscillations, as observed in solar, atmospheric, and reactor neutrino experiments. Combining this mass with the LSND experiment's results required the presence of a fourth but 'sterile' neutrino, breaking the 3-fold symmetry of particle families in the standard model.
Let me translate this to you: there was an experiment that implied that there must be an additional neutrino not currently accounted by the Standard Model, but the new experiment ruled out this possibility. Okay?

Neither of the two has much (if anything at all) to do with the general theory of relativity, they neither prove nor disprove it, just with the Standard Model of particle physics.

This was pretty much expected (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18701463)

The Los Alamos results seemed fishy, so I think most particle physicists expected the sterile neutrino interpretation to be disconfirmed.

Science and non-science (3, Insightful)

noidentity (188756) | about 7 years ago | (#18701605)

"Nice to see some good news out of Fermilab after the CERN debacle"
So it would be bad news if an experiment showed something you were hoping you wouldn't get? That isn't science. Science is being happy when your experiment successfully tests the hypothesis, regardless of whether it confirmed it or not. A success is in gathering more data, a failure having the experiment give no useful information.

Re:Science and non-science (2, Funny)

Tx (96709) | about 7 years ago | (#18701745)

Maybe he meant it's good news because the experiment yielded a useful result, and nothing blew up?

Re:Science and non-science (1)

Jugalator (259273) | about 7 years ago | (#18702297)

What are you, working for an insurance company??
You need to start thinking like a scientist, and look for the BIG badabooms!

OK, so I'm really just a bored programmer expressing my urge for more excitement here... :-(

Re:Science and non-science (1)

onetruedabe (116148) | about 7 years ago | (#18701841)

More succinctly: If the experiment confirms your hypothesis, it's a "measurement". If the experiment refutes your hypothesis, it's called a "discovery". -- :- Dabe

Re:Science and non-science (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18714797)

true, but hey... nothing blew up.

Some background (4, Informative)

radtea (464814) | about 7 years ago | (#18701637)


Neutrino oscillations are a process by which different types of neutrino can turn into each other. The elementary particles (quarks, leptons and neutrinos) all come in three "families". We are made of the lightest family: up and down quarks (which are the constituents of protons and neutrons) and electrons. Members of the heavier families are unstable and decay rapidly into lighter particles.

However, it turns out that the weak nuclear interaction can mix quarks of different families. Down quarks turn out to be somewhat mixed with strange quarks of the next heaviest family due to this effect.

For a variety of reasons, it was natural to ask if neutrinos were mixed in the same way. In particular, this could account for the unexpected deficit of electron-type neutrinos from the sun [queensu.ca] . Various terrestrial experiments were done in the 80's and 90's to try to detect this effect, including LSND.

Neutrino experiments are extremely difficult and subject to all kinds of backgrounds, making them highly susceptible to errors in calibration and calculation. The LSND results were at odds with everything else that had been seen, but the stakes were high and no one wanted to give up on a result that might be right although it was not widely believed by people outside the LSND collaboration itself.

The experiment described in TFA has tried to independently reproduce the LSND results. This is somewhat easier to do than the original experiment because you can design things so that you are most sensitive to the most interesting region. They have failed to find the effect that the LSND result would predict if it was due to neutrino oscillations, and it is likely that this is the end of it.

The article never says so, but the most likely cause of the LSND result is some error in analysis, particularly in accounting for backgrounds and instrument effects. This kind of thing happens, particularly in neutrino physics, where the background processes are fundamentally many orders of magnitude stronger than the effects you are looking for, and have to be designed out with the most excruciating care.

Re:Some background (1)

jamiethehutt (572315) | about 7 years ago | (#18701927)

However, it turns out that the weak nuclear interaction can mix quarks of different families. Down quarks turn out to be somewhat mixed with strange quarks of the next heaviest family due to this effect.

All while Odo watches for "just one wrong move".

Is it just me (1)

nireus (988551) | about 7 years ago | (#18701661)

or other people as well think that the magnet explosion was no accident? I bet that now CERN scientist are going to retaliate by aiming their neutrino beam [web.cern.ch] at FermiLab trying to mess with their experiments.

Not an accident, but not Fermilab either (2, Funny)

alienmole (15522) | about 7 years ago | (#18702939)

You're right, it wasn't an accident, but don't look to Fermilab. Who has the most to lose if we finally figure out the ultimate secrets of the universe? That's right...

God. The forbidden Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden was just the first barrier. Exploding magnets are just God's way of saying "Discovereth not the Higgs Boson, for in what day soever thou shalt discover it, thou shalt die the death." Of course, the scientists are all like "Yeah yeah, that's what you said about the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and that worked out OK. We'll take our chances." And God is all like "Grrrr! Frickin' arrogant humans! Why did I give you free will, anyway?" And the scientists are like "What-ever, you won't be such hot shit after we've bagged the boson, dude!" and God is like "Oh crap, you're right! I'm so scared! Look at me shaking! And oh by the way, have you checked the accelerator alignment lately? Muhahaha!"

Wrong numbers = wrong results? (1)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | about 7 years ago | (#18701969)

Go to the MiniBooNE web site [fnal.gov] and guess whether the photomultiplier tubes used to detect the event are either 1520 or 1280.
This could explain an error. At least in their web site, as the correct answer is 42, as everyone knows!

Re:Wrong numbers = wrong results? (1)

SMQ (241278) | about 7 years ago | (#18702033)

As the second paragraph says: 1280 inward facing to detect events in the tank + 240 outward facing to detect background events = 1520 total tubes. Not exactly rocket science, that.

Cosmology predicted that ages ago (2, Interesting)

PineGreen (446635) | about 7 years ago | (#18702149)

Cosmology predicted that quite some time ago as myself and collaborators show in this [arxiv.org] PRL paper from over a year ago. And there were many other papers with similar conclusions as well... The only problem is that particle physicists never believe cosmologists! :)

Re:Cosmology predicted that ages ago (1)

Lithdren (605362) | about 7 years ago | (#18704335)

Its one thing to predict it. its quite another to prove it.

Re:Cosmology predicted that ages ago (1)

l2718 (514756) | about 7 years ago | (#18712159)

You are confused. GP does refer to a proof that there is no sterile neutrino as claimed by LSND -- a proof based on cosmological data. The new "proof" is based on accelerator data. Good to see that they both give the same result.

The Electric Universe Theorists Called This One (0, Offtopic)

pln2bz (449850) | about 7 years ago | (#18703977)

It appears that nobody seems to be asking the next logical question: if the neutrinos aren't there, then what about the Sun?

Neutrinos are the required result of nuclear fusion within the Sun. They are not charged particles and they will travel through a light-year of lead. Now that Sudbury has been scrapped, there remains a severe deficit of neutrinos coming from the Sun for the nuclear fusion model. We're only seeing about one-third of what should be there for that model. But what else do we know? To quote Wallace Thornhill in his upcoming book, "The Electric Universe":

The neutrino output varies inversely with the surface sunspot cycle. Were they produced in the nuclear 'furnace' at the center of the Sun, this relationship would be inconceivable, since solar physicists calculate that it takes about 200,000 years for the energy of internal fusion to affect the surface. In the electrical model, more and larger sunspots mean less 'lightning' at the surface, where the nuclear reactions occur. Thus, the decline in neutrinos with increasing sunspot number is expected.
And ...

Neutrino counts have been found to wax and wane with the flux of particles in the solar wind, a predictable effect if the solar wind is part of an electric circuit fueling nuclear fusion on the Sun's surface.

The issue remains: if neutrinos are being generated on the Sun's surface and if sunspots appear to us as dark, cool spots relative to the rest of the Sun, then what, if anything of any relevance, is happening within the Sun's core?

And why does the solar wind continue to accelerate as it passes all of the planets? Why should we suppose any mechanism for accelerating charged particles *other* than an electric field centered at the Sun?

And how is it that the Sun's corona is 100x hotter than its surface if the core is supposedly the source of the energy?

Why did the Ulysses probe observe a million mph flow of electricity into the Sun at its south pole? We're told that it's just not important to the bigger picture, but why is it there in the first place?

Why has man had such trouble generating a controlled nuclear fusion reaction here on Earth? Is it possible that our incorrect assumptions about the Sun are affecting our ability to objectively evaluate methods for nuclear fusion?

To mainstream astrophysicists, these are *individual* problems that will eventually be worked out so that we can continue to believe what they want -- that the Sun is nothing more than a thermonuclear reactor at the core. But, when you look at the whole picture, and when you understand the role that plasma plays within the universe and how plasma operates within the laboratory, the evidence is overwhelming that the Sun is being powered externally and electrically. The fact is that there remains no stellar evolution theory that has not been directly observed to be violated. We willfully and perhaps ignorantly choose to believe that stars "evolve" over time from one place on the HR diagram to another even though we've seen stars jump all over it over short periods of time.

It's testament to the fact that nobody is listening to the EU Theorists that nobody here is apparently aware that Don Scott delivered a scathing review of the Sudbury Experiment in his recent book, "The Electric Sky". The problem with that experiment was that it was not an experiment. It drew conclusions based upon assumptions about how many neutrinos were leaving the Sun because it assumed that the Sun must be generating so many neutrinos within its core. It wasn't until a later experiment that it was determined that these oscillations could not be used to explain the neutrino deficit because the oscillations were not happening in just one direction. I presume that this announcement is a confirmation of those results.

If we are to learn from our mistakes, this should be a lesson to laboratory scientists around the world that astrophysics, currently deemed to be the queen of the sciences, should not be permitted to dictate to the input-output sciences. Astrophysics is clearly (at least at the moment) an interpretive and speculative science and we'd be doing ourselves a great disservice to replace laboratory experiments with assumptions and speculations.

The Sudbury experiment is an example of what is commonly called "consensus science". A simple analysis of that experiment demonstrated without a doubt that it was absurd. How could you *know* how many neutrinos were coming from the Sun end of the equation without actually measuring this? Now, it's stated that everybody knew that this was bad science. However, nobody publicly called them on it. And this is what matters because this "science" has been used to discredit alternative cosmologies. And other similar things are still happening in science. The idea, for instance, that CO2 is the cause of global warming on Venus is touted as an explanation for what is happening on our own planet. But this conclusion was drawn through consensus based upon an assumption that Venus is our sister planet, and only by denying data that revealed that the high temperatures of Venus are originating from the planet's surface. The cloud cover of Venus is in fact probably too thick to even account for the high temperatures there, but this sort of thinking is considered to be "against-the-mainstream". The implication is that thinking about astrophysical problems for yourself is somehow heretical.

The same thing is happening for comets. Despite numerous observations that indicate that comets have no ice, the consensus remains that they do -- in spite of the data -- because to think otherwise would deprive traditional cosmologists of one of their fundamental underpinnings about how the universe works. When in fact you actually objectively analyze what we know about comets, it becomes clear without a shred of doubt that they are plasma phenomenon. The oxygen from the surface of the comet is being stripped away through electric machining and combines with protons from the solar wind to generate what appears to some sensors as the signs of water. But then, scientists hit a wall when they see data indicating no water or ice on the cometary bodies themselves. It's the consensus that holds them (and all of us) back. The goal in astrophysics is increasingly to generate consensus, and the funding is directed based upon this consensus. But the establishment of these pseudo-facts remain in the public long after the data is determined to be disconfirming. Consensus science is a scourge that must be eliminated. Scientists should never be fearful of thinking differently, and people within society must learn to respect the scientific beliefs of those who are different from them. The regular beat-down I receive on this very forum for believing in a theory that's different is the clearest indicator possible that consensus science is alive and well. I don't care what your predigree is. Nobody should feel qualified to insult somebody in regards to their beliefs until they've fully read the theory themselves.

We are wasting years of our lives within the astrophysical sciences right now. Don Scott, Wallace Thornhill, Tony Perratt and David Talbott are making amazing discoveries with regards to astrophysics right now. It's a gold rush and no matter how hard they yell their results to the world, everybody ignores them. If they continue to be ignored for a few more years, there will be little that you can look through a telescope to view that they will not have explained. By willingly ignoring and discounting their results *without reading them* and in spite of their consistently correct predictions, the astrophysical community has absolutely no idea what's coming. But more than that, we're wasting time.

We need to make a choice: do we cling to old theories because they inspire us to believe that the universe is this strange, complicatedly beautiful place? Or, do we follow the data, which indicates that we can understand the universe fairly well right now by studying its primary constituent -- plasma?

Re:The Electric Universe Theorists Called This One (2, Informative)

ZombieWomble (893157) | about 7 years ago | (#18704537)

It appears that nobody seems to be asking the next logical question: if the neutrinos aren't there, then what about the Sun?

Neutrinos are the required result of nuclear fusion within the Sun. They are not charged particles and they will travel through a light-year of lead. Now that Sudbury has been scrapped, there remains a severe deficit of neutrinos coming from the Sun for the nuclear fusion model.

They're not asking the question because that is not at all what this result implies. This result does not rule out all neutrino oscillations, but rather deals with a specific result (produced at Los Alamos, not Sudbury) which significantly complicated the neutrino oscillation theory by requiring an additional fourth type of neutrino. The neutrino oscillation theory used to describe the yield of various species from the sun is still quite intact, I believe.

Re:The Electric Universe Theorists Called This One (1)

pln2bz (449850) | about 7 years ago | (#18707139)

Thanks for the clarification, and for not shooting off a hostile or demeaning response.

Re:The Electric Universe Theorists Called This One (2, Funny)

An ominous Cow art (320322) | about 7 years ago | (#18705281)

It appears that nobody seems to be asking the next logical question: if the neutrinos aren't there, then what about the Sun?
The Sun is there. I checked. :-)

Re:The Electric Universe Theorists Called This One (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18705401)

Spoken like a true crackpot...maybe we could ask slashdot to start a psuedoscience section.

Re:The Electric Universe Theorists Called This One (1)

pln2bz (449850) | about 7 years ago | (#18706399)

I'm perhaps offtopic and misguided on this posting, but that by no means makes me a crackpot. There is nothing about the Sun that was predicted by the fusion-only concept. You give mainstream theories far too much credit. Every week that passes sees additional anomalies with stellar evolution and the Big Bang Theory. To you, they are merely small problems that will eventually be figured out and assimilated into the bigger picture. Unbeknownst to you, when those anomalies are rearranged and presented within the context of laboratory plasma physics, all of those anomalies suddenly make sense.

Chances are that you have read none of the EU publications. You are not even aware of the arguments being made or the fact that the numerous independent pieces of anomalous space data all unanimously point to electrical plasmas in space. It's not a sparse patchwork of ideas. It is an overwhelming flood of data from all points of observation that simultaneously point to one single conclusion. And yet you offer the opinion that you are fluent enough that you *know* that the EU Theorists must not be correct. You offer people no actual reasons to believe that I'm a crackpot other than the fact that I believe in an against-the-mainstream theory. And yet the mainstream gravity-driven theories cannot account for 95% of all matter in the universe -- much of which appears, as only electricity can do, to *repel* other matter by your own theories' admission. Your favored mainstream theories are based upon ideas about plasma that we know to not be true from laboratory plasma physics, and yet you cling to them because the people around you do. You confuse the comfort of consensus for the notion of being objective, or for that matter even supported by data. You relish the feeling of being part of a team or club where everybody thinks the same, and where everybody is working towards a singular goal in harmony, already knowing what you'll find before you even look. You ignore the fact that this is not how science works. In a worst-case scenario, you will not realize that this is a mistake until perhaps you are far too old too do anything about it. If you feel a deep urge to understand your surroundings, you will eventually regret the fact that you commented on a subject that you know little about. The thought that you could have possibly dissuaded objective people from investigating a subject matter that you had lost your objectivity on (and which you will eventually turn out to be wrong on), will eat at you. But, like others, you'll convince yourself that you did no harm. It is all a part of human nature.

Re:The Electric Universe Theorists Called This One (1)

loxosceles (580563) | about 7 years ago | (#18712823)

If you cared, you could easily find many pages debunking the "electric universe" theory. e.g. http://www.tim-thompson.com/electric-sun.html [tim-thompson.com]

There are no shortage of crackpot physics theories supported by allegedly upstanding scientists. Often it's not even anyone's fault. Someone sees a sliver of evidence for some wild theory and latches on to it, wildly grasping at straws to support it. It's human nature, but most scientists manage to overcome the desire to selectively interpret evidence for their own purposes.

http://www.steorn.net/ [steorn.net]
http://www.rexresearch.com/coler/coler2.htm [rexresearch.com]
http://www.blacklightpower.com/ [blacklightpower.com]
http://www.relativitychallenge.com/ [relativitychallenge.com]
http://www.thefinaltheory.com/ [thefinaltheory.com]

If you want to debunk current science, start by learning modern physics and the experiments used to defend modern physics. You can't effectively criticize theories when you don't know what they say or how past experiments have validated them.

The above crackpot sites might not even be wrong. It could be that the scientific establishment is corrupt, misinterpreting evidence, and unreasonably trying to squash competing theories. However, the way those crackpots are going about trying to disprove currently accepted physics is simply the wrong way to go about it. If any of them would design a repeatable experiment that conflicts with existing theories, they'd become instantly famous. Why don't they? Either they're lazy or they're frauds. In either case, they have no business calling themselves scientists.

Re:The Electric Universe Theorists Called This One (1)

pln2bz (449850) | about 7 years ago | (#18721289)

If any of them would design a repeatable experiment that conflicts with existing theories, they'd become instantly famous.

Wallace Thornhill accurately predicted *all* of the anomalous results from the Deep Impact Mission to Comet Tempel 1. Results that remain anomalous to NASA to this day were all natural byproducts of EU Theory. Did it make him famous? No, not really. People still blew him off. It is a fact, actually, that pretty much all of the anomalies in the space sciences today have an electrical explanation. Nobody really cares, to tell you the truth. We live in "interesting" times, I suppose.

It may seem to people who have not read the Electric Universe materials that Tim Thompson puts the issue to rest. This is far from the case.

Although I can certainly see major problems with some of his analysis (like the notion that neutrino flavors change in only one direction), I do not personally have the capability to evaluate all of Tim Thompson's arguments. Few people do. Does that mean that he is the only person capable of formulating an opinion on the universe? No, it does not. Does it mean that he is more qualified to evaluate the situation? No, not even. It is oftentimes worse to know something wrong than to not know anything at all. It is a fact that astrophysicists are unanimously taught in school that electricity plays no important role in space. Those people were educated before it became apparent that space is filled with plasma, and these educational programs persist in spite of the fact that Hannes Alfven, the father of plasma physics, tried in vain to convince the astrophysicists that electricity does flow through space. We know from the laboratory that plasma is electrical in nature. It is a gas that consists of a certain percentage of charged particles. Plasma is in fact *highly* conductive in our laboratory experiments. Astrophysicists are taught that they can ignore this fact in school in a class called magnetohydrodynamics. In that class, they are taught that plasmas can "instantly neutralize" and that plasmas have frozen-in-place magnetic fields (look it up on wiki "if you care" ...). These simplifications are useful for doing math because it allows them to avoid using Maxwell's Equations and model plasma as a superconductor -- even when the plasma stretches light years in distance. Contemplate the concept of a plasma that's light years across instantly neutralizing. It's silly. Now, if you remove that assumption and permit the plasma in space to act as plasma in the laboratory does, then you are effectively giving resistance to the plasma. With resistance, plasma conducts electricity. It's not space that deprives plasma of its conductivity. It's the astrophysicists.

Plasma is unique in that we know from the lab that its physical interactions induce electric current, and vice-versa. If you accept, as astrophysicists do, that plasma pervades 99.999% of all space, then out of necessity, it's inevitable that electrical currents will result from violent physical interactions in space.

Astrophysicists are oftentimes taught in class that it would require more energy than exists within the universe to completely strip the electrons from all of the atoms in a teaspoon of salt. Some education there! That assumes that the plasma universe started in a neutral state. We know no such thing.

One could then argue, well, if plasma in space was electrical like the stuff in the lab, then we'd see evidence of this in our observations. And in fact, we do. Every single week that goes by, in fact, there are images of z-pinches that we observe within the laboratory in NASA press releases. This week, in fact, we saw two such images:

http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/070406_red_r ectangle.html [space.com]
http://www.physics.usyd.edu.au/~gekko/redsquare.ht ml [usyd.edu.au]

Take a very close look at the filaments coming out of the "square" in the second image. Both of these images clearly show hourglass morphologies. This hourglass morphology represents a z-pinch, the filaments in the red square (like the "mysterious" beads in 1987A) are Birkeland Currents. You will see this morphology time and time again. There is nothing about the hourglass shape that results from gravity. I'm sure that Tim Thompson has lots of complicated theories about what these observations represent, but why should I believe his mental acrobatics over plasma physics that we know to be true within the laboratory? Because lots of other people believe as much?

The suggestion that I should learn magnetohydrodynamics and the rest of astrophysics so that I can evaluate whether or not it is true is absurd when I can quite clearly see that there are major problems. Astrophysics is so broken at the moment that it's not even clear to me what I can trust within the educational program. If I could trust the material, I'm pretty sure that I would actually enroll. But there is no plasma cosmology track to astrophysics. I would have to learn the incorrect material *before* I was able to unlearn it and re-learn the plasma cosmology. Who wants to spend years of their life learning something they know to be incorrect?

The unfortunate fact that I've learned is that people really don't care about finding the truth here on the Slashdot forums. People are more interested in deferring to people like Tim Thompson and Albert Einstein than in trusting their own judgment and thinking for themselves. People have developed emotional attachments to the stories of mainstream cosmology. It's no longer important that the data, time and time again, says that comets, for instance, do not contain water or ice. What's important is that people like to believe that they do! In this way, cosmology has been turned into a cult where the theories supercede the data in importance. There is no data that can actually be considered disconfirming to people like Tim Thompson, and the equations exist primarily to sustain belief in the theories, irrespective of what the data is saying. Newer theories that prioritize the data, like EU Theory, are considered pseudo-scientific for no better reason than lots of people don't believe in them or aren't aware of them. If you open your eyes and look at their arguments with an objective mindset, you will see this. But you have to listen to *both* sides of the debate before you can possibly draw any conclusions. Even if I don't understand everything that Tim Thompson does, I understand what both cosmologies say. And I can quite easily determine that the Electric Universe side wins the debate even before the math is necessary.

offtopic ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18704083)

the proton has a "diameter" = x.

what is the mass =y of a blackhole with diameter =x?

how fast ( % of c) do u need to accelerate a proton so that it
would have mass =y (relativity)?

if the accelerated proton has mass x,
is it a blackhole then?

Hardly salvaged... (2, Informative)

Roger W Moore (538166) | about 7 years ago | (#18704715)

Firstly nobody really believed he Los Alamos results principly because some of the collaborators removed their names from the original results paper and published another paper in the same journal issue in which they voiced considerable concern over the validity of the results. If you can't convince your own collaborators it is very hard to convince anyone else.

Secondly neutrino oscillations are not in the Standard Model and the problem with the LSND result was that it could not be reconciled with the other neutrino mising results from SNO and SuperK. So while this results is still very interesting it simply confirms that a simple neutrino mixing EXTENSION to the the Standard Model may be sufficien without needing to invoke more exotic alternatives.

Clarification (5, Informative)

perturbed1 (1086477) | about 7 years ago | (#18705689)

I submitted this story to Slashdot, but sadly, I see that my original wording has been altered by kdawson. Unfortunately, I do not have a copy of my original post, but I would like to clarify what I *meant*. First of all, I do not consider this "good news" -- but "good results." The MiniBooNE team clearly worked very hard to get here so a big "Congrats" goes out to them. You could not rule out the LSND result, just because "we did not expect it" and "found it fishy." The unexpected results are sometimes the best ones and in science, remember: one scientist's junk is another scientist's signal. The CMB discovery story [wikipedia.org] is the best example to this. Secondly, the neutrino mass indeed does not belong in the standard model, which already several people have pointed out. What belongs in the standard model is the number of lepton families. It is good to see it confirmed that no "sterile" neutrino is needed to explain the results. Yes, cosmologists have had some say in the subject matter already, but it is good to see it confirmed. This is, afterall, how physics is done. "I told you so" is never a good thing to say in physics. You never know what comes out next afterall. I do not believe that Standard Model has been salvaged by this result nor do I want to live with the Standard Model for the rest of my life. There is already plenty of evidence that the Standard Model is not a sufficient model for explaining all the physical phenomena we observe and soon, I hope soon we will have evidence what that new "something" might be. At this point, I would also like to take this chance, as a physicist who works at CERN, to reply to the highly excited conspiracy theorists: Calm down! CERN, Fermilab and other physics labs are not part of corporate America! Yes, of course, I want CERN (and my experiment, in specific) to be the one who finds the Higgs, but I am willing to bet all my fortune, little as that may be, on that Fermilab's calculation mistake was not intentional. Yes, we, physicists are a funny bunch, with lots of things to argue and get excited about. But, we do have a common goal in life, to dig deeper into the mystery of the universe. And a common understanding -- that the truth *will* reveal itself and you can not determine when it does.

Re:Clarification (1)

Parlyne (884090) | about 7 years ago | (#18707805)

Now, correct me if I'm wrong; but, it was my understanding that the introduction of sterile neutrinos in no way requires additional families. The most natural thing would simply be to introduce right chiral neutrinos. All neutrinos are SU(3) and U(1)_Y singlets, and a right chiral neutrino would be an SU(2)_L singlet as well. Given that it wouldn't interact under the standard model gauge group, this (or, maybe more correctly, it's charge conjugate) would act as a sterile neutrino. I mean, isn't this basically what is done to induce the See-Saw mechanism for neutrino masses? Of course, that requires a right-handed neutrino with very large Majorana mass; but, the standard model families have room for three right-handed neutrinos and (I think) the See-Saw only requires one of them to be particularly heavy.

Re:Clarification (1)

ioshhdflwuegfh (1067182) | about 7 years ago | (#18748847)

Oh great! I'm as calm as a cucumber now that I know that there is a common understanding at CERN that the truth *will* reveal itself, although it cannot be determined when... what?
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