Ability to detect the tiny particles performing new trick allows for new tests of physicists’ theories
Jean Lachat/Univ. of Chicago
Famously sneaky particles have been caught behaving in a new way.
For the first time, scientists have detected neutrinos scattering off the nucleus of an atom. The process, predicted more than four decades ago, provides a new way to test fundamental physics. It will also help scientists to better characterize the neutrino, a misfit particle that has a tiny mass and interacts so feebly with matter that it can easily sail through the entire Earth.
The detection, reported online August 3 in Science, “has really big implications,” says physicist Janet Conrad of MIT, who was not involved with the research. It fills in a missing piece of the standard model, the theory that explains how particles behave: The model predicts that neutrinos interact with nuclei. And, says Conrad, the discovery “opens up a whole new area of measurements” to further test the standard model