By: David Rice
Re: In the News #1
NEW YORK (ITN) * Scientists have produced strong evidence that
tiny particles called neutrinos -- so slight they were long
thought to have no mass at all -- do indeed have mass, and may be
some of the most abundant matter in the universe, The New York
Times reports Tuesday.
The finding by scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory
in New Mexico means that neutrinos could account for much of the
long-sought missing matter that cosmologists think fills and
shapes the universe.
If the findings are confirmed, the neutrino would help complete
an inventory of missing matter, which in turn could help
determine whether the universe will fly apart, collapse on itself
or take some middle path.
This matter is thought to exist because the mass that can be
seen in the heavens, such as planets, starts and galaxies, is not
sufficient to account for gravitational influences seen on the
Dr. D. Hywel White, leader of the research team, told the Times
that "the most likely explanation" for the observed behavior of
neutrinos produced by a proton accelerator is that these
particles have some as yet undetermined amount of mass.
White said the mass of the neutrino must be greater than one
half of an electron-volt, the minimum of the detector's
sensitivity, and perhaps no more than five electron-volts.
By comparison, the mass of a single electron, a constituent of
atoms that is currently the lightest particle known to have mass,
measures more than 500,000 electron-volts.
The findings are to be described at a meeting at Los Alamos this
week and in a formal report being prepared for publication in the
journal Physical Review Letters.
If the results are verified, "this is a very big discovery," Dr.
Joel Primack of the University of California at Santa Cruz told
"It's the golden evidence for neutrino mass. It's the discovery
of more matter in the universe than we've known up to now," the
Times quotes Primack as saying.
Other experts were more reserved. "Until one has independent
confirmation, one has to be very cautious," Dr. David Schramm of
the University of Chicago told the Times.
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