With their ability to move seamlessly through walls, rocks, lead shielding, and entire planets, neutrinos would seem like a great choice for a new method of wireless communication. Scientists at Fermilab have demonstrated sending messages via neutrino but the downside is that the slippery particles can also move seamlessly through detectors.
In the Fermilab experiment, the physicists fired a proton beam into a carbon target to produce a shower of particles called pions and kaons that quickly decay into neutrinos. For every pulse of 22.5 trillion protons, the physicists registered an average of 0.81 neutrino with the 170-ton MINERvA detector.
That translates into a data rate of 0.1 bits/second, or just slightly faster than America Online’s dialup service circa 1992. (Hey, hey, if you liked that one, perhaps you’ll also enjoy my impression of Dana Carvey doing George H.W. Bush.)
The NY Times is reporting that a data bump “smells like the Higgs boson”. The odor is emanating not from CERN in Europe but from Fermilab near Chicago, where their Tevatron still flings some pretty fast particles.
“Based on the current Tevatron data and results compiled through December 2011 by other experiments, this is the strongest hint of the existence of a Higgs boson,” said the report, which will be presented on Wednesday by Wade Fisher of Michigan State University to a physics conference in La Thuile, Italy.
None of these results, either singly or collectively, are strong enough for scientists to claim victory. But the recent run of reports has encouraged them to think that the elusive particle, which is the key to mass and diversity in the universe, is within sight, perhaps as soon as this summer.
Update: The Tevatron is no longer flinging, having been shut down in 2011 due to budget cuts. Which makes the Higgs discovery a little bittersweet, to say the least. (thx, miles)