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Nanotechnology

Neutrino quick-change artist caught in the act

Science News
1 June 2010

In a truly transformative event, physicists have for the first time found direct evidence that a neutrino, a ghostly elementary particle that barely interacts with matter, morphs from one type into another. The finding, announced May 31 in a news release, provides additional support for the notion that neutrinos have mass, a property that requires an explanation beyond the realm of the standard model of particle physics.

Since the late 1990s, experiments have indicated that neutrinos spontaneously transform themselves, or oscillate, among three varieties -- the electron neutrino, the muon neutrino and the tau neutrino -- indicating that neutrinos, long thought to be weightless, must have some small amount of mass.

The first neutrino oscillation experiments, dating back some 15 years, were conducted to understand a long-standing puzzle about why nuclear burning at the sun's core seemed to be producing substantially fewer electron neutrinos than predicted. The experiments revealed that about one-third of the electron neutrinos had disappeared on their way to Earth, presumably because they had transformed into another type of neutrino.

Full story from New Scientist.