Deep below a mountain in Italy, in the coldest cubic meter of the known universe, scientists are hunting for evidence that ghostly particles called neutrinos act as their own antimatter partners. What these researchers find could explain the imbalance of matter and antimatter in the universe.
By Lana Bandoim | SPACE.com
So far, they have come up empty-handed.
The latest results from the first two months of the CUORE (Cryogenic Underground Observatory for Rare Events) experiment in Gran Sasso, Italy, show no hint of a process proving neutrinos, which are generated by cosmic radiation, are their own antimatter partners. This means if the process does occur, it happens so rarely that it takes place roughly once every 10 septillion (10^25) years.
The ultimate goal of this experiment is to solve one of the universe’s most enduring riddles, and one that suggests we shouldn’t even be here. That riddle exists because the theoretical Big Bang — in which a tiny singularity is said to have inflated over 13.8 billion or so years to form the universe — should have resulted in a universe with 50 percent matter and 50 percent antimatter. [Big Bang to Civilization 10 Amazing Origin Events]
When matter and antimatter meet up, they annihilate and render each other nonexistent.
But that’s not what we see today. Instead, our universe is mostly matter, and scientists are struggling to discover what happened to all the antimatter.
That’s where neutrinos come in.