The neutrino has mass?!

John E. Rylander (
Thu, 4 Jun 1998 22:07:05 -0500

A fascinating story that if confirmed has major implications for the
standard model of particle physics.

This is interesting here partly in itself, but also because it may bear on
theories of the origin of the universe, and in particular, -may- give more
credibility (I didn't say how much, please; only -more- than previously) to
the oscillating universe theories, a leading atheological alternative to
intelligent cosmological design.

I excerpt the first several paragraphs here.


A Quantum Leap in Physics Theory
By Curt Suplee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 5, 1998; Page A01

In an old zinc mine 2,000 feet beneath the Japanese Alps, an international
team of physicists has discovered that a ubiquitous, ghostly subatomic
particle called the neutrino previously thought to have no mass at all,
like a beam of light actually weighs in at about one ten-millionth the
mass of the electron.

That may not sound like much. But the long-awaited observation, to be
announced in Japan today by the 100-member collaboration using the
underground Super-Kamiokande neutrino detector, will force drastic revisions
in long-established scientific theory and change the way researchers view a
host of phenomena, including the shape of the cosmos.

"These new results could prove to be a key to finding the holy grail of
physics, the unified theory" the quest for deep, simplifying principles
that underlie the profusion of objects and forces in nature, according to
John G. Learned of the University of Hawaii, a veteran neutrino hunter in
the Kamiokande group.

The discovery strikes a devastating blow to the "Standard Model" of
particles and forces, the consensus theory of how nature works at the most
basic level. That model, hammered together over the past 75 years, governs
the way scientists use nuclear energy, design transistors and lasers,
explore space and build medical imaging devices, among scores of other
endeavors. But it cannot accommodate a neutrino that has mass without
changing several primary assumptions.

"It really does shake up the Standard Model in a serious way," said Nobel
physics laureate Leon Lederman, and "it shows us that we really just don't
know nothin'" about the processes that give particles their bewildering
diversity of masses.

That shake-up, Learned believes, could lead "toward understanding of the
origins of the matter from which we are made and the ultimate fate of the
universe" namely, whether it contains sufficient mass that it will
collapse upon itself, or so little that it will expand forever.