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Neutrino Mass
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What Does 'Almost Nothing' Weigh? Florida State University Physicist Aims To Find Out

If subatomic particles had personalities, neutrinos would be the ultimate wallflowers. One of the most basic particles of matter in the universe, they've been around for 14 billion years and permeate every inch of space, but they're so inconceivably tiny that they've been called "almost nothing" and pass straight through things - for example, the Earth - without a bump.

So it's easy to see why no one thought they existed until the 1930s, and why it wasn't until the 1950s that scientists were finally able to confirm their inconspicuous presence. It's also easy to see why their masses, once believed to be zero, remain so elusive, but could help unlock the universe's mysteries on everything from dark matter to the births of galaxies.

With a Precision Measurement Grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology that will provide up to $150,000 in funding over three years, Florida State University research physicist Edmund G. Myers, in Tallahassee, Florida, and student researchers hope to meet part of that challenge by measuring the precise difference in mass of tritium, a form of hydrogen, and helium-3 atoms. This will help pin down the mass of the electron neutrino.

To make such a measurement, Myers will use the state-of-the-art Penning trap that he brought to Florida State University from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2003. It's arguably the most precise equipment made for the purpose of determining atomic mass.

"With neutrino mass, the game is to keep lowering the upper limit until you find it" - Edmund G. Myers.

Right now, that ceiling is around 2 electron Volts (eV). Myers' work, combined with results from other experiments, could drop this by a factor of at least 10, to 0.2 eV or even lower. By comparison, an electron, which is probably the lightest commonly known subatomic particle, has a mass of 511,000 eV.

Myers was one of two recipients of this year's Precision Measurement Grants, which the National Institute of Standards and Technology has been awarding since 1970. Among the 34 applications, Myers' research stood out because it so snugly fit the institute's mission to support physics research at the most fundamental level.

"What he's doing is very precise measurements. The results are very important"- Peter Mohr, institute grant program manager.

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RE: Big Bang wrong
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New analysis of 'cool' spots in the cosmic microwave background cast new doubts on a key piece of evidence supporting the big bang theory of how the universe was formed.

Two scientists at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) looked for but couldn't find evidence of gravitational "lensing" in the cosmic microwave background, the most distant light source in the universe.

Results of this research by Dr. Richard Lieu, a UAH physics professor, and Dr. Jonathan Mittaz, a UAH research associate, were published Monday in the "Astrophysical Journal."

In the same paper, Albert Einstein's 1917 theory that at a certain "critical" density the counteracting forces of gravity and expanding space can result in a "flat" universe no matter how irregular the distribution of matter might be, is proven mathematically for the first time.

Proving Einstein right might become a problem for the standard cosmological model of how the universe was formed because Einstein's theory also predicts that the cosmic microwave background shouldn't look the way it does.

The problem is that cool spots in the microwave background are too uniform in size to have travelled across almost 14 billion light years from the edges of the universe to Earth.

"Einstein's theory of how gravity attracts light, coupled with the uneven distribution of matter in the near universe, says you should have a spread of sizes around the average, with some of these cool spots noticeably larger and others noticeably smaller. But this dispersion of sizes is not seen in the data. When we look at them, too many cool spots are the same size" - Dr. Richard Lieu

The cosmic microwave background is believed to be the afterglow of hot gases that filled the fledgling universe immediately following the big bang. These microwaves permeate the sky, coming to Earth from every direction in a nearly homogeneous blanket of weak radiation.

Nearly homogeneous because some spots are slightly cooler than the average "temperature" of less than three Kelvin - three degrees Celsius above absolute zero.

Cosmologists have theorized that these cool regions in the microwave blanket are the birthmarks of galaxies and clusters of galaxies that condensed out of the primordial plasma a few eons after the big bang.

Based on theories about disturbances in gases that existed for millennia after the big bang, cosmologists developed detailed estimates of how big these cool spots should have been when they emitted the radiation reaching us as microwaves today.

These cool spots were studied in detail by the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), which found that the average spot is about the size that had been forecast for a flat, smooth universe.

The problem is that not only is the average about right, but far too many of the spots themselves are "just right" with too little variation in sizes. Given the uneven distribution of matter in an expanding universe we should see a broader size distribution among the cool spots by the time that radiation reaches Earth.

The distribution of matter and the expanding universe are important because they have opposite effects on the "shape" of space and the paths taken by light, microwaves and other radiation as they zip through the cosmos.

An expanding universe would tend to "stretch" space, causing radiation to disperse as it flies through. That dispersion would make objects appear to an observer to be smaller than they really are, as if the light went through a concave lens.

"As far as we know, the expansion takes place smoothly everywhere. When the universe reaches a certain age all points in space at this moment expand in the same way" - Dr. Richard Lieu

Matter - or more specifically gravity - tends to constrain space. And because matter is distributed unevenly across the universe, so are its gravitational effects.

If you have enough matter in one small place, such as a galaxy or cluster of galaxies, that super concentration of gravity can act like a convex lens, bending inward both space and any light travelling through it. When light from a distant galaxy is bent by gravity as it passes another galaxy or galaxy cluster, these distortions can appear as Einstein rings or weak lensing shear effects.

If the object emitting light is like a cool spot in the microwave background, the focusing effect of galaxy clusters or groups of galaxies between those spots and Earth might make the spots appear to be larger than they really were.

A large portion of the mass in the nearby universe is concentrated in small volumes of space. These are galaxies and massive galaxy clusters, which are surrounded by vast empty voids of intergalactic space. If the standard big bang model is correct, that means the microwave radiation from some cool spots would travel through mostly empty space, would be dispersed by the expanding universe and would look small by the time that radiation reached Earth.

Radiation from other cool spots, however, would pass around or near massive gravity lenses. These focused spots would appear to be larger than the average cool spot.

"But you don't see this fluctuation. There appear to be no lensing effects whatsoever. This lack of variation is a serious problem" - Dr. Richard Lieu

In his "Cosmological Considerations of the General Theory of Relativity," Einstein theorized that the net effect of the counteracting forces of expansion and gravity should remain the same if the amount of matter in the universe stays the same.

While Einstein developed this theorem based on a universe where the distribution of matter is "smooth," the UAH mathematical work shows for the first time that the net effect on the propagation of light doesn't change even if the universe is "clumpy."

If the cool spots are too uniform to have travelled to Earth from near the beginning of time, Lieu says cosmologists are left with several alternative explanations.

The first is that the cosmological parameters (including the Hubble constant, the amount of dark matter, etc.) used to predict the original, pre-lensed sizes of the cool and hot spots in the microwave background might be wrong. These parameters could be adjusted to predict a narrower range of sizes on either side of the "pre-lensed" average.

Then, after the effect of gravitational lensing is folded in, the resulting average size and size dispersion would agree with what WMAP actually saw. "This approach is the most conservative, but would still result in an overhaul of the standard model."

"Or, could it be that although the radiation itself is from far away, some of these cool spot structures are caused by nearby physical processes and aren't really remnants of the universe's creation?
"Could they have been imprinted locally and aren't cosmological at all? Given that we find no lensing, that might be one possibility.

"Or is it possible that as light goes through the vast areas of space there is some other, unknown factor damping the effects of dispersion and focusing? There is certainly plenty of room for unknowns
" - Dr. Richard Lieu

The most contentious possibility is that the background radiation itself isn't a remnant of the big bang but was created by a different process, a "local" process so close to Earth that the radiation wouldn't go near any gravitational lenses before reaching our telescopes.

Although widely accepted by astrophysicists and cosmologists as the best theory for the creation of the universe, the big bang model has come under increasingly vocal criticism from scientists concerned about inconsistencies between the theory and astronomical observations, or by concepts that have been used to "fix" the theory so it agrees with those observations.

These fixes include theories which say the nascent universe expanded at speeds faster than the speed of light for an unknown period of time after the big bang; dark matter, which was used to explain how galaxies and clusters of galaxies keep from flying apart even though there seems to be too little matter to provide the gravity needed to hold them together; and dark energy, an unseen, unmeasured and unexplained force that is apparently causing the universe not only to expand, but to accelerate as it goes.

In research published April 10 in the "Astrophysical Journal, Letters," Lieu and Mittaz found that evidence provided by WMAP point to a slightly "super critical" universe, where there is more matter (and gravity) than what the standard interpretation of the WMAP data says.
This posed serious problems to the inflationary paradigm.

Recent observations by NASA's new Spitzer space telescope found "old" stars and galaxies so far away that the light we are seeing now left those stars when (according to big bang theory) the universe was between 600 million and one billion years old - much too young to have galaxies with red giant stars that have burned off all of their hydrogen.

Other observations found clusters and super clusters of galaxies at those great distances, when the universe was supposed to have been so young that there had not been enough time for those monstrous intergalactic structures to form.

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RE: Ancient neutrinos
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Two European astrophysicists say ancient neutrinos can help track the early history of the universe, less than 300,000 years after the Big Bang.
The cosmic microwave background dates from about 300,000 years into the universe's life, the point when light could move in a straight line for the first time without being blocked.
The background contains ripples, because matter was unevenly distributed as the universe began expanding.
But Trotta and Melchiorri say that a detailed examination of the microwave background found that it contains less variation than expected, a sign that neutrinos were smoothing out the lumpiness.


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RE: Primordial Anisotropies
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The paper "Indication for Primordial Anisotropies in the Neutrino Background from WMAP and SDSS" by Roberto Trotta and Alessandro Melchiorri has been accepted for publication in Physical Review Letters.
A pre-print version of the article can be downloaded from HERE (PDF).



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-- Edited by Blobrana at 00:13, 2005-06-16

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Date:
Big Bang Neutrinos
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Astrophysicists from the Universities of Oxford and Rome have for the first time found evidence of ripples in the Universe’s primordial sea of neutrinos, confirming the predictions of both Big Bang theory and the Standard Model of particle physics.

Neutrinos are elementary particles with no charge and very little mass, which are extremely difficult to study due to their very weak interaction with matter. Yet pinning down the physical properties of neutrinos is of paramount importance to scientists attempting to understand the fundamental building blocks of Nature.

According to the standard Big Bang model, neutrinos permeate the Universe at a density of about 150 per cubic centimetre. The Earth is therefore immersed in an ocean of neutrinos, without us ever noticing. Although it is impossible to measure this ‘Cosmic Neutrino Background’ directly with present-day technology, physicists predict that ripples or waves in it have an impact on the growth of structures in the Universe.



In research to be published in the journal Physical Review Letters, Dr Roberto Trotta, Lockyer Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society at Oxford’s Department of Physics and Dr Alessandro Melchiorri of La Sapienza University in Rome were able to demonstrate for the first time the existence of ripples of primordial origin in the Cosmic Neutrino Background.
The discovery, made by combining data produced by the WMAP (Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe) satellite and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, confirms the predictions of both the Big Bang theory and the Standard Model of particle physics. The research has important implications for the study of neutrinos, showing that theories of the infinitely large (cosmology) and the infinitely small (particle physics) are in agreement.

This research provides important new evidence in favour of the current cosmological model, unifying it with fundamental physics theories. Cosmology is becoming a more and more powerful laboratory where physics not easily accessible on Earth can be tested and verified. The high quality of recent cosmological data allows us to investigate neutrinos in the cosmological framework, obtaining measurements which are competitive with, if not superior to, particle accelerator findings.’ - Dr Roberto Trotta

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(2 December 2004)
Researchers have demonstrated by combining Cosmic Microwave Background anisotropy measurements from the 1st year WMAP observations with clustering data from the SLOAN galaxy redshift survey yields an indication for primordial anisotropies in the cosmological Neutrino Background.

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