TERAMO – Italian scientists recently announced the discovery of only the fourth recorded transformation of a neutrino from one kind into another. If confirmed, the event, which has so far been a purely theoretical proposition, stands to revolutionize the subatomic particle theory.
The findings were announced at the Gran Sasso National Laboratories (LNGS), which is the particle physics lab of Italy’s National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN).
First predicted by Italian nuclear physicist Bruno Pontecorvo in 1967, this transformation, or oscillation, has been so far just a theory since it implies that neutrinos have non-zero mass, which is contrary to the current Standard Model theory of subatomic particles.
“This observation paves the way for the so-called new physics, which goes beyond the Standard Model theory,” said INFN Vice-President Antonio Masiero.
The phenomenon occurred during the Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tracking Apparatus (OPERA) experiment which is being carried out by 140 nuclear physicists from 11 countries working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) lab in Geneva, Switzerland, and at Italy’s LNGS.
A muon neutrino left the CERN lab in Geneva, traveled 450 miles through the Earth’s crust and reached the LNGS as a tau neutrino. This phenomenon has occurred in 2010, 2012 and 2013, according to OPERA coordinator Giovanni De Lellis. “The arrival of the fourth tau neutrino is a highly significant confirmation of the previous events,” said De Lellis, a professor at Naples’ Federico II University. “This time, the phenomenon was observed with unprecedented accuracy.”