14 June 2011

Looking for Neutrinos & Freezing to Death

“Check out this diagram I found on Wikipedia.”
“I thought you said all your electrical equipment was dead? Like an ‘old packet of peas at the back of the bloody freezer’ I believe you said.”
“Never mind that, have a look.”
The Berg leaned forward to peer at the diagram, chunks of ice splashed into the water and clattered on the deck. The sounds were strange and hollow in the fog that had been there since dawn.

“Sorry. Hmmm, yes it all looks very neat doesn’t it?”
“It’s pretty bloody incredible.”
“That too. Just fill in the blanks hey?”
“Well we’re going pretty well on the matter side. Three quarks give you a proton, another three give you a neutron, pop in an electron or two from your bag of leptons and you’ve got an atom.”
“All that other stuff in your ‘bag of leptons’ though. Muons, Tau Neutrinos, what are they all for?”
“Search me. Maybe you build stuff with them in other dimensions.”
The Berg cracked alarmingly. “Haa! Yes, I expect that’s it.” It leaned forward again. A hunk of ice glanced off the wheelhouse and spun away into the fog. “Quantum Electrodynamics is the only one really holding up its end in the yellow bit though, isn’t it?”
“We’re waiting on the bloody Higgs Boson. If we find that then the Electroweak Theory’s looking great.”
You know. And Quantum Chromodynamics always comes out of experiments looking good.”
“It has eight different types of gluons which it insists on describing with such monikers as ‘blue/anti-green + green/anti-blue.’”
“It’s a weird world.”
“That it is… but… the elephant in the room?”
“Fucking gravity.”
The Berg tried to look sympathetic.
“I know, I know. Gravitons? Sorry, can’t detect them. Quantum Gravity? Sounds good – few contenders, something to test them against would help though.”
“Fucking gravity.”
They sat staring into the fog for a few minutes. Gerry’s eyes started to hurt, whether from gazing too long into the blank wall of the fog, or from the cold, he couldn’t tell.
“How do you know all this stuff anyway?” he asked the Berg.
“A few years ago a bunch of Russians came along and drilled a hole in me. They were going to look for neutrinos but the funding fell through. And one of them froze to death.”
“You talked to them too?”
“I wanted to, but I can’t speak Russian.”

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