The shadow universe

Fermi lab, in suburban Chicago, is going to send a beam of neutrinos underneath Wisconsin to be collected all the way in northern Minnesota, all in the hopes of understanding these mysterious entities. From Blasting Neutrinos Under Wisconsin May Yield Big Payoff – washingtonpost.com:

Neutrinos blast right through the Earth with nary a spark. They interact so rarely and so weakly with normal matter that they can zip right through solid rock as though it were not even there — much like light through a clear glass window. That’s why, contrary to the hopes of some private contractors who heard about a big new experiment under construction, Fermilab does not need to dig a tunnel underneath Wisconsin.

A common adjective applied to neutrinos is “ghostly.” They have no charge. Until recently, it was unclear if neutrinos had any mass at all (they do, but just a smidgen). Trillions of neutrinos from the sun pass through our bodies every minute, scientists say. You could be hit with a neutrino beam right between the eyes without getting so much as a blemish.

“These neutrinos are a type of matter that essentially form a shadow universe,” said Marvin Marshak, a University of Minnesota physicist working on the new neutrino experiment, called Nova. “They share space with us, but they have very little interaction with us. So you have neutrinos going through your body all the time — neutrinos from the sun, neutrinos from the cosmic rays coming down from space, neutrinos left over from the birth of the universe — but they go right through you.”

Again, the universe is far more mysterious than mere materialists realize. Even material is not so material any more. The more science learns, the more mysterious the universe proves to be.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Joe

    That is all very interesting but why do that have to shoot it under my state? What did we ever do to anybody?

  • Joe

    That is all very interesting but why do that have to shoot it under my state? What did we ever do to anybody?

  • Carl Vehse

    In 1931 Wolfgang Pauli (1945 Nobel Prize for the Pauli Exclusion Principle) had predicted the existence of a tiny particle to explain some energy discrepencies in beta decay. In 1934 Enrico Fermi (1938 Nobel Prize for discovery of new elements through reactions with slow neutrons) gave this tiny particle, the name”neutrino” (“a little one” in Italian) in his theoretical explanation of beta decay, which involved a “weak force” (one of the four known fundamental forces in nature). There are several types (or flavors) of neutrinos associated with various subatomic nuclear reactions that involve the weak force.

    For many years less-than-predicted solar neutrino flux measurements created a problem for nuclear physicists (“These measurements indicate the sun should not be shining!”), before the problem was finally resolved. The sun may now – without theoretical contradiction – shine. ;-)

  • Carl Vehse

    In 1931 Wolfgang Pauli (1945 Nobel Prize for the Pauli Exclusion Principle) had predicted the existence of a tiny particle to explain some energy discrepencies in beta decay. In 1934 Enrico Fermi (1938 Nobel Prize for discovery of new elements through reactions with slow neutrons) gave this tiny particle, the name”neutrino” (“a little one” in Italian) in his theoretical explanation of beta decay, which involved a “weak force” (one of the four known fundamental forces in nature). There are several types (or flavors) of neutrinos associated with various subatomic nuclear reactions that involve the weak force.

    For many years less-than-predicted solar neutrino flux measurements created a problem for nuclear physicists (“These measurements indicate the sun should not be shining!”), before the problem was finally resolved. The sun may now – without theoretical contradiction – shine. ;-)

  • scots

    >>The more science learns, the more mysterious the universe proves to be.<<

    Including Wisconsin…

  • scots

    >>The more science learns, the more mysterious the universe proves to be.<<

    Including Wisconsin…

  • WebMonk

    This is one of those things that really gets me going – in a good way. And as an added bonus, IF the government is going to spend the stimulus money anyway, this isn’t too bad of a way to do it. After the money is gone, we’ll have something lasting to show for it – knowledge. Cars will rust out, flowers along the Mall will die, etc. Knowledge, even non-immediately-practical knowledge, is good and has worth.

    Like the article said – Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity is now used to plow straight rows of corn in the dark. Maybe 90 years from now, neutrinos will be used to send energy throughout the world without wires.

  • WebMonk

    This is one of those things that really gets me going – in a good way. And as an added bonus, IF the government is going to spend the stimulus money anyway, this isn’t too bad of a way to do it. After the money is gone, we’ll have something lasting to show for it – knowledge. Cars will rust out, flowers along the Mall will die, etc. Knowledge, even non-immediately-practical knowledge, is good and has worth.

    Like the article said – Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity is now used to plow straight rows of corn in the dark. Maybe 90 years from now, neutrinos will be used to send energy throughout the world without wires.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Carl’s (@2) nuclear science is good, but his Italian less so. Neutrino means “small neutral one”. Which makes sense.

    Personally, WebMonk (@4), I’m amazed I got through an entire science article and only found the “why this might be useful to you” paragraph at the end, and it saying this experiment “has no obvious application to day-to-day life in the short run”. Good for them. Too much science journalism is really applied science journalism, with little to no appreciation for learning for its own sake.

    Anyone want to comment on the rumor that the existing 5,500-ton detector in Soudan, Minn. is actually made out of Cash for Clunkers vehicles?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Carl’s (@2) nuclear science is good, but his Italian less so. Neutrino means “small neutral one”. Which makes sense.

    Personally, WebMonk (@4), I’m amazed I got through an entire science article and only found the “why this might be useful to you” paragraph at the end, and it saying this experiment “has no obvious application to day-to-day life in the short run”. Good for them. Too much science journalism is really applied science journalism, with little to no appreciation for learning for its own sake.

    Anyone want to comment on the rumor that the existing 5,500-ton detector in Soudan, Minn. is actually made out of Cash for Clunkers vehicles?

  • WebMonk

    Anyone want to comment on the rumor that the existing 5,500-ton detector in Soudan, Minn. is actually made out of Cash for Clunkers vehicles?

    That’s hilarious!

    The beaming neutrinos through the Earth to distribute energy was a very far-out possibility. It was the best I could come up with off the top of my head, though. I suspect any actual uses of discoveries made with these neutrino experiments will be much more mundane. More likely it will be combined with lots and lots of other discoveries to be used in every day life.

  • WebMonk

    Anyone want to comment on the rumor that the existing 5,500-ton detector in Soudan, Minn. is actually made out of Cash for Clunkers vehicles?

    That’s hilarious!

    The beaming neutrinos through the Earth to distribute energy was a very far-out possibility. It was the best I could come up with off the top of my head, though. I suspect any actual uses of discoveries made with these neutrino experiments will be much more mundane. More likely it will be combined with lots and lots of other discoveries to be used in every day life.


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