Neutrino: Measuring the Unexpected

2014, Science  -  31 min Leave a Comment
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They are the core mysteries which have enticed and confounded physicists throughout time. How has the sun managed to burn and illuminate for so many millions of years? Early on, our universe was made up of equal parts matter and antimatter, yet very little antimatter exists in our world today. Why? The answers could lie in the study of the neutrino, an elusive subatomic particle that passes through our bodies at the rate of trillions per second.

Unlike the electron, neutrinos are almost without mass, do not carry an electric charge, and only interact through gravity and nuclear decay. As they cannot be illuminated electronically, they are extremely difficult to detect. But these nearly imperceptible particles are essential to the function of our universe.

In the new documentary short Neutrino: Measuring the Unexpected, directed by Javier Diez, a trio of renowned physicists take us on a guided tour through a series of groundbreaking experiments. Each of these studies is designed to uncover the true nature of the neutrino, and to provide answers to some of the grandest and most challenging questions that remain about our universe.

One of these experiments is taking place at the South Pole, which is home to the largest neutrino detector on the planet. Called the IceCube, this detector lies 1.5 miles underneath the ice of the Antarctic, where it studies the events emanating from the sky with great detail and scrutiny. This ice is one of the Earth's clearest solids, and serves as an ideal environment in which to study the intricacies of light, and to capture and analyze the phantom neutrino.

Investigators are also devoting intense study to the neutrino at the Canfranc Underground Laboratory in Spain. Their enterprise, known as NEXT, seeks to explore the possibility that the neutrino acts as its own antiparticle, which could work towards providing an explanation as to why we are surrounded by so little antimatter in our universe.

The film delves into these pools of theory with great urgency and wonder. In the process, it manages to give us a better understanding of the endlessly curious figures who devote their entire lives to uncovering the previously unknowable, and discovering the unexpected.