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Science!: Promiscuity, Antimatter and Disease Tests

Lauren Admire | 1 Mar 2010 21:00
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Super Kamoikande Go!

Super-Kamiokande: it sounds like a Dragonball Z power move or the title of a futuristic anime set in space. In reality, it's a gigantic neutrino detector, encasing 11,200 photomultiplier tubes set within 50,000 gallons of pure water. This "Super-K" detector is set to answer one of the most mind-boggling questions of our time: Why does matter exist?

According to super fancy physics laws that I couldn't possibly explain, after the Big Bang, there should have been equal amounts of matter and anti-matter. Equal amounts of the duo would annihilate each other, leaving nothing behind but high-energy photons. Instead, there's more matter than anti-matter in the universe, and we have no idea why.

The Tokai-to-Kamioka experiment, cleverly titled the "T2K," will soon be conducting the most sensitive neutrino experiment ever to try to answer this question. Streams of neutrinos will be beamed from a particle accelerator located near Tokai and 300 miles to the opposite coast of Japan to the "Super K" detector at Kamioka. During their travel, the neutrinos will likely collide with atomic nuclei, creating a distinctive flash that scientists at the receiving detector will be on the lookout for.

Neutrinos come in three different types: electron, muon and tau neutrinos. Physicists know that neutrinos can change into one of these types spontaneously, and switch back and forth from one kind of another. They're hoping that this oscillation holds the key to answering the question of why there is more matter than antimatter. During the experiment, physicists will be measuring how many neutrinos turn into electron neutrinos (anti-neutrinos). The collected data will later be used to compare neutrinos to anti-neutrinos, and finally, matter to antimatter.

"There must be a law of physics that is different for matter than antimatter," claims David Wark of Imperial College, London. "We don't know what it is, but neutrino oscillations are someplace where it might show up."

Source: Popular Science

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