Thursday, 4 November 2010


Ghost Particle

Neutrino by Frank Close

New Scientist, 6 November 2010

For a moment in the late 1920s, Niels Bohr considered the unthinkable: abandoning the notion of conservation of energy. He wasn't calling for its wholesale rejection, only that it be disregarded whenever a neutron decayed into a proton and an electron, as some energy appeared to go missing along the way.

Wolfgang Pauli, who was wont to damn poor ideas as "not even wrong", came up with a solution he called "a terrible thing" - an unknown particle to account for the missing energy. Since it had to be electrically neutral with little or no mass, it was called the neutrino, the "little neutral one".

In this short and informative book, Frank Close recalls those who had the ingenuity and patience to catch and understand this elusive particle that barely interacts with other matter. Their successors are hunting neutrinos left over from the big bang, and no one knows what story these relics will tell.