Why Neutrinos are so Weird

If you held out your thumb, every second about 65 billion neutrinos will pass through it. Besides photons, neutrinos are the most abundant particle in the universe, and by far the most unique.

The existence of the neutrino was first theorized by Wolfgang Pauli, after noticing how energy didn’t seem to be conserved in beta decay. He believed that the missing energy was being carried away by some “invisible” particle. He would later say “I have done a terrible thing, I have postulated a particle that cannot be detected.”

Although elusive, neutrinos can be detected, but it requires sensitive, and often massive detectors. After finding that neutrinos came in three types: electron, muon, and tau, a problem seemed to emerge. Electron neutrinos are created all the time in the Sun, as a by-product of nuclear fusion, but they would always find only a third of the total number of electron neutrinos they were expecting. So, where did the missing neutrinos go?

It turns out, neutrinos actually oscillate back and forth between the three different types. So, by the time the neutrinos from the Sun had reached Earth, two thirds of them have turned into muon and tau neutrinos. This discovery was especially surprising, since everyone thought neutrinos had no mass, like the photon. The fact that neutrinos could change in-flight implied that they could experience time, and due to special relativity, this means they must have mass.

While that mystery has been solved, we still have plenty to learn from these strange particles. Exactly how much do they weigh? Although we know they must have mass, they are so light, we can’t tell how much. Since they have no electric charge, is a neutrino its own anti-particle? Is there more than just three types of neutrinos? Answering these could help us uncover some of the biggest mysteries in physics today.

13.05.17 // Updated my physics window for the first time in ages! Had some thoughts over the past few weeks surrounding a free scalar field universe model so I drew them up as well as some old game theory because I watched a Beautiful Mind and felt nostalgic. I hope you are all having wonderful days / evening / whatever plane of existentialism you currently observe 😉

In every breath we take, we inhale as many molecules as there are stars in all the galaxies in the visible universe. And every breath we exhale is circulated through the air and mixed gradually across the continents; It becomes available for others to breathe.
—  Neil deGrasse Tyson // Cosmos - Deeper, Deeper, Deeper Still
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july 22, 2016 | 5:41 pm | (5/100)

my biology test was returned yesterday and i didn’t expect to actually get a good mark, but i did! yaay 🤓  here are my cosmology notes for today’s test 💫🌎🌟☄🌞🌛  one of the few tests i had to think through rather than rely on definitions, facts and other information! i hope u all have a productive weekend!!! 🤗💓

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Images of the cosmos from the late 1950s and early 60s. Most are from the Mount Wilson and Palomar Observatories. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the high definition and detailed images coming out of Hubble and similar telescopes today, but there is something about these old photos. What they lacked in detail and resolution they made up for with wonder and mystery. Can you imagination how mind blowing these pictures would have been when they first came out of the developing tank in the 50′s?

Check out my scifi music Spotify playlist

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Strange is our situation here on Earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that man is here for the sake of other men - above all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness depends.

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.

Happy 138th birthday to Albert Einstein, one of the brilliant fathers of modern physics and the founder of physical cosmology and relativity. 

The Porpoise Galaxy from Hubble 

What’s happening to this spiral galaxy? Just a few hundred million years ago, NGC 2936, the upper of the two large galaxies shown, was likely a normal spiral galaxy – spinning, creating stars – and minding its own business. But then it got too close to the massive elliptical galaxy NGC 2937 below and took a dive.

Dubbed the Porpoise Galaxy for its iconic shape, NGC 2936 is not only being deflected but also being distorted by the close gravitational interaction. A burst of young blue stars forms the nose of the porpoise toward the right of the upper galaxy, while the center of the spiral appears as an eye. Alternatively, the galaxy pair, together known as Arp 142, look to some like a penguin protecting an egg. Either way, intricate dark dust lanes and bright blue star streams trail the troubled galaxy to the lower right.

In a billion years or so the two galaxies will likely merge into one larger galaxy.

In Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, space and time are unified in a single entity called spacetime. This is the “stage” in which the laws of physics operate.

In Einstein’s theory, the presence of mass and energy warps spacetime, and it is this curvature that affects objects in the way we perceive as gravity. The basic idea is that while we see objects accelerating towards a mass by the effect of a force, in reality is just the object attempting to follow a straight line in this four-dimensional warped space described by General Relativity.

In other words, things fall because they are following a straight line in spacetime.

In usual illustrations, the bending of space is represented as a flat rubber-sheet with masses pressing down on it. This has always bugged me, as it didn’t really represent the nature of 3D space being curved, and it never really addressed the fact that time is also distorted near masses.

This is my first attempt at a better depiction of the effects of General Relativity. Here, we see a 3x3x3 section of an imaginary spatial grid (that extends throughout all of space) being distorted by the presence of a mass. At the intersections of the grid lines there are clocks that show the rate of passage of time at each point in space, relative to a far away observer.

Notice how the clocks near the mass measure time at a slower pace than the clocks further away from the mass.

The distortion of spacetime is real, and can and has been measured experimentally several times. Modern telecommunication satellites and GPS systems all make use of the predictions of General Relativity in order to function.

While bizarre and complex, General Relativity has stood the test of time, and is one of the most well-tested and successful scientific theories ever conceived.

Cosmic ‘Winter’ Wonderland

Although there are no seasons in space, this cosmic vista invokes thoughts of a frosty winter landscape. It is, in fact, a region called NGC 6357 where radiation from hot, young stars is energizing the cooler gas in the cloud that surrounds them. 

Located in our galaxy about 5,500 light years from Earth, NGC 6357 is actually a “cluster of clusters,” containing at least three clusters of young stars, including many hot, massive, luminous stars. The X-rays from Chandra and ROSAT reveal hundreds of point sources, which are the young stars in NGC 6357, as well as diffuse X-ray emission from hot gas. There are bubbles, or cavities, that have been created by radiation and material blowing away from the surfaces of massive stars, plus supernova explosions.

Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/PSU/L. Townsley et al; Optical: UKIRT; Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech