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One neutrino anomaly has been resolved while another has sprung up. A Fermilab experiment called MiniBooNE provides staunch new evidence for the idea that only three low-mass neutrino species exist. These results, reported over the past week at a Fermilab lecture and at the American Physical Society (APS) meeting in Jacksonville, Florida, seem to rule out two-way neutrino oscillations involving a hypothetical fourth type of low-mass neutrino.
Several experiments have previously shown that neutrinos, very light or even massless particles that only interact via gravity and the weak nuclear force, lead a schizoid life, regularly transforming from one species into another. These neutrino oscillations were presumably taking place among the three known types recognized by the standard model of particle physics: electron neutrinos, muon neutrinos, and tau neutrinos.
However, one experiment, the Liquid Scintillator Neutrino Detector (LSND) experiment at Los Alamos, provided a level of oscillation that implied the existence of a fourth neutrino species, a “sterile neutrino,” so-called because it would interact only through gravity, the weakest of physical forces
Catalyzing Primordial Nuclear Chemistry
One of the principal predictions of the standard big bang model is the creation of light nuclei-heavy hydrogen (deuterium), helium-3 and -4 and lithium-6 and -7, in the minutes and hours after the big bang itself. Understanding big bang nucleosynthesis (BBN) is important since it corresponds to the earliest epoch in the early universe for which observation and theory can be tested against each other (the creation of the first stable compound nuclei comes long before the first creation of stable atoms).
Agreement between observations and predictions has been pretty good so far, with the predictions being sharpened in recent years by high-precision maps of the cosmic microwave background. Furthermore, the measurements of elemental abundances can be used to look for phenomena beyond known physics. Indeed, some cosmic abundance studies have already set limits on the number of additional light particles and most recently on the nature of hypothetical extra spatial dimensions.