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No. 12: Fall 1980

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Schizophrenic Neutrinos

"As the concept of the neutrino has developed since the early 1930s, it has developed a split personality and put on weight. The neutrino is now thought to come in three varieties -- electron neutrino, muon neutrino and tau neutrino. And a number of experiments are showing hints that a neutrino has a small mass and that it can oscillate from one variety to another."

These experiments are not yet conclusive; and if the neutrino mass is not zero, it hardly weighs more than the grin of a Cheshire cat. But taken together, the laboratory results confirm that neutrinos are perplexing particles. Are they different entities or a single species wearing different costumes? The implications of the recent measurements are far-reaching:

  1. Physicists believe that there are a billion neutrinos around for each nucleon (proton, neutron, etc.) so that if neutrinos possess just a hint of mass, they will dominate the mass of the universe; and

  2. Measurements of solar neutrinos fall short by a factor of three of what theory says the sun should spew out. This discrepancy could be explained if the solar neutrinos change from electron neutrinos to another form during their flight from the sun to earth, for the terrestrial neutrino detectors measure only electron neutrinos.

(Anonymous; "Do Neutrinos Oscillate from One Variety to Another?" Physics Today, 33:17, July 1980.)

From Science Frontiers #12, Fall 1980. 1980-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987