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Question:
I am an employee of Argonne National Laboratory. I read in an article in our internal newspaper, "The Argonne News," that a neutrino travels from Illinois to north Minnesota in 1/400 second. I just don't see how this can be. It reminds me of science fiction, where something can travel from one spot to another instantly. Like in the "Bewitched" television program. It even makes time travel seem possible. What do you think could be some of the applications of the knowledge gained from the MINOS experiments that will study the neutrino, besides learning more about the universe (as if that weren't enough)? Could we actually use the information in technology?



Replies:
A lot if information nowadays is carried by radio waves and microwaves, which travel at the speed of light. The Argonne News article says that the neutrinos will travel about 450 miles to the detector in Minnesota. Since light travels at 186,282 miles per second, light would take 450/186,282 = .0024 seconds to make the same journey. That's a little less than 1/400 of a second. So the neutrinos are traveling at about the speed of light. (We don't know if they're traveling exactly at the speed of light or a little slower: that depends if the neutrinos have mass or not. If they have mass, they can't travel at exactly the speed of light; if they don't have mass, they must travel at the speed of light.) So anyway, the neutrinos couldn't carry information any faster than radio waves.

Richard Barrans Jr., Ph.D.



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