Neutrinos Make the Standard Model of Particle Physics a Continuous Learning Experience

A new and astonishing discovery in Antarctica is challenging physics as we know it. High-energy neutrinos, with an unknown origin, were detected by the Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA). ANITA studies neutrinos buried deep in Antarctic ice and recently detected high-energy neutrinos coming from inside Earth. It is an anomaly, and scientists are skeptical of making assumptions on the startling event.

What are neutrinos and why is the discovery such a maze?

Neutrinos are particles created by various radioactive decays. The stars are their natural source. The majority of neutrinos that are detected about the Earth are from nuclear reactions inside the Sun, and other stars. Neutrinos also carry away most of the gravitational energy released by the supernovas.

Neutrino is also one of the components of dark matter. They easily move at speeds close to the speed of light and they can penetrate probe environments that other radiation cannot penetrate. Humans can also create artificial neutrinos. Nuclear reactors are the major source but also nuclear weapons produce very large quantities of neutrinos.

A new outcome

There are two types of neutrinos: low-energy and high-energy. The neutrinos detected by ANITA are the high-energy type. Its origins are unknown, they are not astrophysically sourced. It is for the first time this type of neutrino is believed to come from inside Earth. They also seem they had just traveled through most of the planet, and that is odd behavior for neutrinos.

The main difference between the two types is that the low ones can pass through the environment and survive the process without influencing it. The high type has such energy, that they were compared to bulls in a china shop. That means they can interact with particles on Earth.

The consequences

Although the Standard Model is believed to be theoretically self-consistent, it leaves some phenomena unexplained. It is not a complete theory of fundamental interactions. It also does not incorporate neutrino oscillations and their non-zero masses. The discovery might change that.

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