Could Misbehaving Neutrinos Explain Why the Universe Exists?

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Scientists revel in exploring mysteries, and the bigger the mystery, the greater the enthusiasm. There are many huge unanswered questions in science, but when you’re going big, it’s hard to beat „Why is there something, instead of nothing?“

By Don Lincoln |

That might seem like a philosophical question, but it’s one that is very amenable to scientific inquiry. Stated a little more concretely, „Why is the universe made of the kinds of matter that makes human life possible so that we can even ask this question?“ Scientists conducting research in Japan have announced a measurement last month that directly addresses that most fascinating of inquiries. It appears that their measurement disagrees with the simplest expectations of current theory and could well point toward an answer of this timeless question.

Their measurement seems to say that for a particular set of subatomic particles, matter and antimatter act differently.

Using the J-PARC accelerator, located in Tokai, Japan, scientists fired a beam of ghostly subatomic particles called neutrinos and their antimatter counterparts (antineutrinos) through the Earth to the Super Kamiokande experiment, located in Kamioka, also in Japan. This experiment, called T2K (Tokai to Kamiokande), is designed to determine why our universe is made of matter. A peculiar behavior exhibited by neutrinos, called neutrino oscillation, might shed some light on this very vexing problem. [The 18 Biggest Unsolved Mysteries in Physics]

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