Neutrinos

Super-Kamiokande: neutrino observatory in the city of Hida, Gifu Prefecture, Japan.

The neutrino is a particle that travels close to the speed of light, has almost zero mass and is electrically neutral. Subsequently it is very difficult to detect. And yet, at any given second about 65 billion neutrinos (emanating from the sun) pass through every square centimetre of our planet. Gravity, strong atomic forces and electromagnetism have no real bearing on neutrinos. They interact only with ‘weak’ sub-atomic force, which means they pass through great distances of matter without being affected by it. Just as we can see through a thick piece of glass, the neutrino can ‘see’ or travel through a whole light-year of lead without much likelihood of being taken off course.

It is difficult to know what is more amazing: the fact the neutrino exists, or the fact we have found ways to detect it. For an excellent discussion of neutrinos listen to BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time

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