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Neutrinos - ghost particles of the cosmos

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Neutrinos are ghostly particles that can travel through the Earth as easily as a bullet through a bank of fog.They are so shy that half a century after their discovery, we know less about them than all other forms of matter ever seen. The sun and stars produce vast numbers of them – billions of solar neutrinos are passing through your eyeballs unseen as you read this. If we could see with neutrino eyes, night would be as bright as day as solar neutrinos pass up through our beds at night and down on our heads by day. Now we are beginning to seek neutrinos from supernovae, remote galaxies and even from The Big Bang. Their story spans 80 years since Wolfgang Pauli said “I have predicted a particle that cannot be detected” and wagered a crate of champagne to that effect. (He paid up 25 years later when the neutrino was detected). Understanding what the neutrino is and why it exists is one of the frontier puzzles in particle physics; it is the tool of a new way of doing astronomy, which is beginning right now, and is the hero of a scientific adventure story spanning 80 years.

This talk is part of the Cambridge University Physics Society series.

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