morning Dr. Josh Klein shows up for work in miners garbhard
hat, safety boots, the worksand waits for the cage, or elevator,
to take him down one and one-quarter miles into the Earth.
cage is usually jam-packed, says the 35-year-old Penn physicist,
who has spent the better part of the past few years commuting
down into a nickel mine in northern Ontario. When you can put
both feet on the floor, youre pretty happy about it. Around
3,000 feet, Everybodys working their jaws to relieve the pressure
on their ears. If you have a head cold, its incredibly painful.
he walks 1.25 miles to a lab, where the first step is getting
clean. First you wash your boots off twice. Then you go in, take
off your hard hat, belt, all your clothes, go through showers,
put on new clean clothes, and you put on a hairnet. Thats to
keep the lab free of mine dust. As little as a thimble-full, says
Klein, could produce misleading signals in a sensitive detector
that, through the help of Penn scientists, has played a pivotal
role in the hunt for solar neutrinos.
were people, theyd be loners: the stranger who shows up at a
party without so much as a bottle of Beaujolais for the host,
talks to no one, and then mysteriously disappears out the back
door into the night. Dr. Paul Langacker, Penn professor of physics,
describes them as oddballs in the realm of subatomic particles.
But, he says, Theres more than meets the eye. Neutrinos call
to mind somebody who at first glance is very quiet and unassuming,
but is very deep and has a lot of consequences.
it was with much fanfare in mid-June that scientists working at
the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) announced the results of
the latest hunt for these tiny, elusive particles. With an elaborate
detector sunk two kilometers below the surface in an active nickel
mine in Sudbury, Ontario, the multinational team found direct
proof that solar neutrinos, produced in fusion reactions at the
center of the sun, are also quick-change artists: On their eight-minute
journey to Earth, about two-thirds of solar neutrinos change into
different typesor flavors, as physicists call themthat
are more difficult to detect. This explains why for more than
three decades, scientists have been unable to detect neutrinos
at a rate consistent with the standard model of how our sun works.
Our latest result is the smoking gun, I would say, says Dr.
Eugene Beier, a Penn physics professor who serves as U.S. spokesman
for SNO. By accounting for the missing neutrinos, the findingswidely
reported in the media, including The New York Times, The
Washington Post and The Philadelphia Inquirerprove
that the solar model is correct, and open the door for further