There’s gold in them thar neutrinos

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 ??”

11 Responses to There’s gold in them thar neutrinos

  1. martinselvis says:

    [let’s see if my mugshot appears now…]

    Well Andy, I rather hope you have underestimated our ingenuity at making optical/NIR interferometers work on the ground. In fact I have a side bet on MRO-I giving 1mas imaging in 2-3 years time, after which maybe Dome C and kilometer baselines?

    On the Bigger Picture: Has anyone checked to see if Martin Harwitt’s prediction*for the rate of diiscoveries of really new things has held up? He reckoned that because some things are found twice by different means we immediately know that the total number of things to find is finite. And you can calculate how many there will be. (It’s like getting swaps when collecting baseball cards – or in my case, humiliatingly, Thunderbirds cards.) In 1981 he reckoned we had seen about 1/3 of all possible discoveries (~46/129). How have we done in the quarter century following?

    * in his book “Cosmic Discovery”.

  2. Dave Carter says:

    I don’t know whether you can extrapolate from astrophysics to the rest of science, but if you can then I reckon that fraction would be going down. More things are being forgotten or obscured than are being found out. I blame large surveys.

  3. andyxl says:

    Coo Martin you got your avatar working. Re Harwit : well the problem of course is deciding whats a Class A phenomenon and what isn’t. Sounds like a job for PPAN ?

  4. martinselvis says:

    PPAN? aarrgh, where’s my book of Brit acronyms gone… let’s see… No , probably not , well, philanthropy may be what we need, . Ah, must be this. [You’re in America now, bub.]

    Acutally, I rather thought it might be a fun paper for your blog team to write. We go back over his list and see how he did, then make up our list of New Discoveries, and see how the rate is going. Wotcha fink?

    PS I really REALLY must stop posting to Andy’s blog. Gotta get real work done. [Seductive though, innit?]

  5. Colin Cunningham says:

    Strangely enough, I’ve just been reading Martin Harwit’s Cosmic Discovery book in preparation for a talk on future technologies at ‘400 Years of Astronomical Telescopes’ at ESTEC in October – where Martin is speaking just before me! I was wondering how his prediction on discovery rates is panning out – it should have peaked in 2000 and be all downhill from there – which makes future technology development either very hard (diminishing returns) or pointless – nothing much left to discover!

    So, any volunteers to try updating his table on page 43? Discoveries since 1981 – exoplanets, dark energy, SCUBA galaxies etc etc?

    Incidentally, he also says most astronomers when asked what they need for the future say bigger telescopes (at their favourite wavelength) but actually most discoveries are made with smaller telescopes but using novel technology or instruments. He makes the distinction here between discovery and analytical work (eg finding out how it works once it has been discovered) Analogy is with biology, where there is less and less chance of finding new species, but that does not stop biologists trying to understand how they evolved and how they work.

    Plenty there for discussion!

  6. martinselvis says:

    Harwit’s book can be hard to find [Basic Books, 1981, ISBN:0-465-01428-3], so here’s the quick summary, without comment, of his 43 discoveries (listed in Table 4.3, and in the first figure in Chapter 1. They are in order of date of discovery, which has some surprises.

    1. Stars
    2. Planets
    3. Novae
    4. Comets
    5. Moons
    6. Rings
    7. Galactic Clusters
    8. Clusters of Galaxies
    9. Interplanetary Matter
    10. Asteroids
    11. Multiple stars
    12. Variable stars with Nebulosity
    13. Planetary Nebulae
    14. Globular Clusters
    15. Ionized Gas Clouds
    16. Cold Interstellar Gas
    17. Giants/ Main Sequence Stars
    18. Cosmic Rays
    19. Pulsating Variables
    20. White Dwarfs
    21. Galaxies
    22. Cosmic Expansion
    23. Interstellar Dust
    24. Novae/Supernovae
    25. Galaxies with/without stars
    26. Supernova Remnants
    27. Radio Galaxies
    28. Magnetic Variables
    29. Flare Stars
    30. Insterstellar Magnetic Fields
    31. X-ray stars
    32. X-ray background
    33. Quasars
    34. Microwave Background
    35. Masers
    36. Infrared Stars
    37. X-ray Galaxies
    38. Pulsars
    39. Gamma-ray background
    40. Infrared Galaxies
    41. Superluminal Sources
    42. Gamma-ray bursts
    43. Unidentified radio sources

  7. martinselvis says:

    So a few quick comments:
    #37, if you look at the longer text is ‘galaxies and clusters’. The X-ray galaxies turned out to be AGNs (my thesis!), but the hot ICM is a major discovery as it has more mass than the galaxies (stars + ISM).
    #25 SNR: surely Crab-like Pulsar wind nebulae should count as something new. Harwit mainluy uses the Crab as his exemplar of SNR.
    #37, #33, #41 all turn out to be aspects of the same thing. Should 2 of them be shifted to ‘rediscoveries’? (even #32 is really the sum of millions of #33.) Incidentally, the date for quasar discovery is 1963, based on Maarten Schmidt’s realization, which is fair, but Slipher 1908 was the first to find the jet in M87 (A century of AGNs! Let’s have a conference.)
    Harwit also leaves out the physics discoveries from astronomy: e.g. Helium, Forbidden lines. These are impossible to put in a discovery space, so fair enough.

    Next a few suggestions for additions.

  8. martinselvis says:

    Colin listed exoplanets, dark energy, SCUBA galaxies.

    It’s not really hard to make a longer list. Here’s 20 more:
    1. Kuiper Belt Objects [small telescope]
    2. Molecular clouds [oddly missed in Harwit]
    3. Dark Matter
    4. Large Scale Structure [small telescope – 1.5m FLWO]
    5. Lyman Alpha forest
    6. Damped Lyman Alpha systems [quite different from the forest]
    7. CMB fluctuations [does it count?]
    8. Black holes in ‘normal’ galaxies.
    9. Ultra-compact HII regions
    10. High Velocity HI clouds
    11. Hyper-velocity stars
    12. LINERS
    13. Megamasers
    14. Obscured AGNs (Type 2)
    15. Blazars (rediscovery of superluminal?)
    16. ULIRGS
    17. Short GRBs (assuming the first were Long GRBs; now we know they’re different)
    18. Interacting Galaxies/Tidal tails [A big deal = galaxy interactions are important, not island universes; should have been obvious, but wasn’t.]
    19. Merging clusters [similar effect; but too close to LSS?]
    20. GPS/CSS radio sources [sub-class of ‘radio galaxies’, but observationally distinct as only emerge >1GHz]

    …I”m beginnig to think we can get a higher discovery rate than Harwit expected!

    … especially as ‘exoplanets’ needs breaking up, after all planets as such would not be too surprising (exciting, yes): So how about
    Hot Jupiters
    Super-Earths
    (Are there more this week?)

    Harwit also has an awful lot of special types of stars. Where do you stop? Why miss out eg AGB stars? For other categories one can do the same: e.g. #31 ‘X-ray stars’ could at least become: X-ray transients, Magnetars, black hole binaries, neutron star binaries, ULXs, cataclysmic variables. Or, nearer to home, NEOs vs Main Belt asteroids. A bit confusing and seemingly rather arbitrary.

    Also hard to treat via Discovery Space is something like quasar evolution. Not a new type of object, but a fundamental change in that it requires a finite age evolving universe.

    Do y’all have other missed Discoveries ?

  9. KOMbat17 says:

    I missed discovering a lot of things.

    If we can include every flavour of planet/star/galaxy/AGN, can we include the detection of different molecules? All seems a little arbitrary.

  10. MartinE says:

    more!
    Starbursts
    radio-quiet quasars [really, a big surprise]
    and winds of all kinds:
    galaxy superwinds
    AGN winds
    stellar winds [eg AGB stars, O,B stars]
    molecular jets from young stars

    when will this end?

  11. MartinE says:

    more!
    Starbursts
    radio-quiet quasars [really, a big surprise]
    and winds of all kinds:
    galaxy superwinds
    AGN winds
    stellar winds [eg AGB stars, O,B stars]
    molecular jets from young stars

    when will this end?

    I’ll go back and read how Harwit defined ‘Discovery’, unless one of you has already done so and wants to enlighten us?

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