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Updated on October 22, 2011

Standard Model could be laid to rest with presence of Extra neutrino flavor

One subject that has often proved problematic to physics scholars is that of Neutrinos. Physics scholars grappled with the knowledge of its existence and were only able to detect traces of it after many decades. In further study of neutrinos with solar origin, physicists were again baffled at their relative non-presence as detectors showed up only an insignificant amount of them contrary to the expected portion the Sun was supposed to produce. However, this was later adduced to flavor oscillations causing neutrinos to oscillate among electrons, muon and tau. Researchers are however now faced with a new dilemma: the fact that antineutrinos have flavor oscillations at rates different from other regular types.

When flavor oscillations first came to light, they were a major cause of excitement as it the shifts it underwent during its movement indicated that they did have mass which was a fact not known or expected before. The process of flavor oscillation was only fully confirmed recently in Italy using a detector to observe some neutrinos that had originated from CERN.

The new study being conducted makes use of MiniBooNE, a detector from Fermilab that can create neutrinos by draining protons from Tevatron booster system and hurling them at a still target. The orginal intention of MiniBooNe was to get confirmation about results gotten more than ten years ago by a detector from Los Alamos which had indicated muon antineutrinos shifted much faster than expected to electron antineutrinos, which was somewhat puzzling.


An initial experiment with MiniBooNE had observed regular muon neutrions, without any discovery of excess electrons. However, the new reports show a different result. For antineutrinos, it shows detection of excess 43.2 +/- 22.5 events which are somewhat corroborated by the experiments done in Los Alamos.

Another experiment conducted at Fermi has early indications there may be differences in the masses for muon neutrino and the counterpart muon antineutrinos.

These studies are highlighting the fact that neutrinos may be oscillating in a way which points to a new aspect of physics which is yet to be understood, as the present findings and the Standard Model are not in tandem.

Evidence is also pointing to the presence of a new type of neutrinos, which have being named sterile neutrinos. While there is a low level of interaction amongst regular neutrinos, the sterile neutrinos are believed to be capable of only being able to interact through gravity, which may be the reason why their existence has not being detected up till now and that is if only they actually exist. If their existence can be proven, they will make explanations of other phenomena occurring during flavor oscillations plausible and more easily understood.

There is however yet the need to confirm the existence of these sterile neutrinos and that will require the building of a more robust detector BooNe to carry on with the investigation of the data generated by the MiniBooNe.


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