The Mysterious Neutrino

by | Dec 28, 2018


Every second each of us are bombarded with thousand trillion neutrinos, a type of subatomic particle. Amazingly, these neutrinos pass right through our bodies, and even the earth itself without hitting anything!

What are Neutrinos? They are fundamental subatomic particles that have a tiny bit of mass. According to Fermilab “Neutrinos are created in many processes in nature. They are produced in the nuclear reactions in the sun, particle decays in the Earth, and the explosions of stars. They are also produced by particle accelerators and in nuclear power plants.” They are the most abundant particles with mass in the universe.

How is it that they can pass through solid objects like the earth? As discussed in a previous IFOD, there are four fundamental forces in the universe, Gravity, Electromagnetic force, Strong Nuclear Force and Weak Nuclear Force. Neutrinos have no charge – they are neutral like neutrons – and thus do not interact with the electromagnetic force. They don’t interact with the strong nuclear force either. They only interact with gravity and the weak nuclear force, both of which are too weak to have much effect on neutrinos. Atoms are 99.9999% empty space and act solid mainly due to electromagnetic repulsion. Thus, without interacting with electromagnetism or the strong nuclear force, neutrinos can pass through the empty space of atoms and almost never hit anything. Crazy!

Neutrinos are very hard to detect given their lack of interaction and are detected indirectly when neutrinos happen to hit an electron. Scientists are still learning about neutrinos and it is possible they hold the key to a number of mysteries. It is possible that they make up a large part of dark matter.

Still interested in neutrinos? There is a lot more to know. Here is a fantastic site from the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory on the topic: All About Neutrinos.

1 Comment

  1. When it comes to physics, I’m no Alvin Einstein, and therefore I tend to zone out when the subject comes up. However, posts like these are digestible even to slugs like me. Thanks!

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