The Higgs boson particle is old news. Been there, found that. Sort of, anyway. Its discovery, or confirmation of its existence, has, perhaps not all that unsurprisingly, posed more questions than it answers though.
This means scientists have a whole lot more work ahead of them as they try to ascertain the particle’s properties, and its place in the grand scheme of the universe, and one of the next steps in this process is to take a closer look at those particles that some people thought could outpace light, neutrinos:
Neutrinos are oddballs in the Standard Model. They are tiny, nearly massless, and barely like interacting with any other members of the subatomic zoo. Historically, they have been the subject of many surprising results and the future will probably reveal them to be even stranger. Physicists are currently trying to figure out some of their properties, which remain open questions.
While many physicists are disputing recent claims that neutrinos have been observed travelling faster than light, there are plenty of scientists looking for explanations supporting the apparent discovery.
“At present, it would be foolhardy to say one [theory] looks better than the other,” says CERN theorist John Ellis. “And they’re probably all wrong, because the result will probably evaporate.” The number of explanations is useful, though. “Scientific conviction comes primarily from experimental results, but it’s also the job of us theorists to, if you like, bash out all the possibilities, like monkeys on a typewriter,” he says.
It is possible the speed of light may not be the universe’s ultimate speed limit, as postulated by Albert Einstein in his theory of special relativity, following the apparent discovery by scientists in Europe that certain particles can travel faster than light, a finding that may result in the re-writing of the laws of physics.
Antonio Ereditato, spokesman for the researchers, said that measurements taken over three years showed neutrinos pumped from CERN near Geneva to Gran Sasso in Italy had arrived 60 nanoseconds quicker than light would have done. “We have high confidence in our results. We have checked and rechecked for anything that could have distorted our measurements but we found nothing,” he said. “We now want colleagues to check them independently.”
A somewhat mind-bending thought, our universe may be residing within a black hole, an idea that may have some credence, especially if the behaviour of certain neutrinos is anything to go by.
How would we know if we are living inside a black hole? Well, a spinning black hole would have imparted some spin to the space-time inside it, and this should show up as a “preferred direction” in our universe, says Poplawski. Such a preferred direction would result in the violation of a property of space-time called Lorentz symmetry, which links space and time. It has been suggested that such a violation could be responsible for the observed oscillations of neutrinos from one type to another.
Incredible. Highly advanced alien civilisations may be using stars to transmit binary code signals around the galaxy by firing neutrino beams into their cores, in turn temporarily reducing the star’s brightness.
Jolting the star with a kick of energy – possibly by shooting it with a beam of high-energy particles called neutrinos – could advance the pulsation by causing its core to heat up and expand, they say. That could shorten its brightness cycle – just as an electric stimulus to a human heart at the right time can advance a heartbeat. The normal and shortened cycles could be used to encode binary “0”s and “1”s.