Scientists look for Antarctic neutrinos

July 19, 2007 at 3:35 PM
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LONDON, July 19 (UPI) -- British and U.S. physicists have set up experiments in Antarctica to detect neutrinos -- some of the most elusive and energetic particles in the universe.

University College London particle physicists Ryan Nichol, Amy Connolly, Mark Lancaster and David Waters are working with U.S. colleagues on the Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna, or ANITA, project -- a balloon-borne cosmic ray neutrino detector.

ANITA is designed to search for radio pulses caused by interactions of ultra-high energy cosmic ray neutrinos in the Antarctic ice.

Neutrinos are similar to electrons but don't carry an electric charge, the scientists said. And although they are the second most abundant particle in the universe, very little is known about them.

"Detecting neutrinos tells us about the nature of the universe and detecting the most energetic neutrinos tells us something about the most violent -- and generally rarest -- events in the universe," said Nichol. "We are interested in neutrinos because they hold the secret to the origins of the universe and perhaps grand unified theories that describe the ... the quantum workings inside the atom."

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