The answer to one of the universe’s biggest mysteries may come down to one of the smallest, weirdest particles.
Matter is common in the universe. Everything around us—from planets to stars to puppies—is made of matter. But matter also has its opposite: antimatter. Protons, electrons, and other particles all have antimatter counterparts: antiprotons, positrons, etc. However, antimatter is rarer than matter for some reason – no one knows why.
Physicists believe that the universe was born with equal amounts of matter and antimatter. Since the matter and antimatter counterparts annihilate upon contact, this suggests that the universe should eventually be left with nothing but energy. Something must have tipped the scales.
Some physicists believe that light, subatomic particles called neutrinos could point to the answer.These particles are very tinyless than one millionth the mass of an electron (SN: 4/21/21). They are produced in radioactive decay as well as in the sun and other cosmic environments. Known for their ethereal propensity to evade detection, neutrinos have earned them the nickname “ghost particles.”These ghostly particles, originally thought to have no mass at all, have a health record produce scientific surprises (SN: October 6, 2015).
Now researchers are building giant detectors to see if neutrinos can help solve the mystery of matter in the universe.This Super Kamioka Experiments in Hida, Japan Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment In Lead, SD, neutrinos and their antimatter counterparts, antineutrinos, will be studied. Scientists suspect that differences in the behavior of neutrinos and antineutrinos may hint at the origin of the matter-antimatter imbalance.
Watch the video below to learn how neutrinos reveal why the universe contains anything.