There’s gold in them thar neutrinos

August 20, 2008

So whats with the neutrino puzzle thing ?

A little while back I wrote an article about astronomical discovery space, and speculated on whether the golden age of discovery was over. I wrote a blog post about it too. My conclusion was that the best hopes for real discoveries was time, neutrinos, and the internet. Two out of three of those (time and the internet) are exactly where I have been putting my personal efforts. Neutrinos are tempting too, but thats big experiment stuff and I haven’t been in that club and don’t have the experience.

Since pushing that line, I had found myself cooling on the neutrino front. Amanda clearly detects atmospheric neutrinos, but no sources yet; IceCube may just, but even then it hardly seems likely to turn into a rich and diverse skymap, like X-ray astronomy. IceCube is already a cubic kilometre of ice – what more can we do ? Looks like a brick wall.

I got re-invigorated last week listening to two excellent lectures by David Saltzberg from UCLA. This was part of the SLAC Summer Institute on “Cosmic Accelerators”. You can find his talks uploaded here. (Scroll down to Aug 13th and 14th). There are lots of very good and ambitious projects going on, but some just seemed really fun, and potentially hugely promising. Do check out Salzberg’s talk, cos I might give you a slightly garbled version as this was all new to me.

The first thing is that radio Cherenkov can be easier to detect than optical. ANITA is an experiment on a balloon that flies high above the Antarctic looking for backscattered radio pulses from the collision of UHE neutrinos with the ice. Its effectively looking at over a million cubic km of detector. It has had a preliminary flight, with more to come. Even groovier is the idea of looking for radio pulses from the Moon. This has been tried by Parkes and by the GLUE project. There’s even a suggestion of using a Europa orbiter.

Next lovely idea is acoustic detection, in principle using huge volumes of water. Early attempts are being made by SAUND in the Bahamas, and ACORNE off the coast of Scotland. No GZK neutrinos yet, but these experiments are in early development stages.

Or perhaps we take Martin E’s suggestion, and just wait for some random person to suddenly say “Ow !! What was that ??”