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Particles Larger Than Galaxies Fill The Universe? (nationalgeographic.com)
17 points by quoderat on June 6, 2009 | hide | past | web | favorite | 21 comments

Now imagine you could collapse all (or at least a lot) of those neutrino probability waves into one specific point (say inside a star), and assume they have mass. Boom! Instant black hole.

I see a fantastic new field of military technology just waiting for us. Talk about a deterrent. "If you attack us, we'll blow up the solar system".

Mr. President, we must not allow a mine-shaft gap!!

If you attack us, we'll use the red matter.

For some reason I found this article silly. I'm not sure why.

So these ancient neutrinos have such an extremely low energy and such a disperse wave function? Sounds like saying that we can't see them, and even if we could, they're not even in a "place" that can be seen. I mean, if your probability wave reasonably covers the entire universe, I'm not sure the word "location" works any more.

I don't see why it's silly. Anyway you're not thinking about it in the right way. Sure, one or two of these ultra-dispersed neutrinos, assuming they exist, might not be interesting or even detectable. But in quantity, and I suppose one can assume the quantities are quite overwhelmingly large, they could definitely add up to an effect worth studying.

Consider a 100W globe diffused to such a degree that the light is spread out over the whole solar system. Nothing remarkable, right? Wouldn't even notice. But imagine a few trillion trillion of them and suddenly you have some interesting questions, such as "where is all this light coming from".

Personally I find regular neutrinos to be utterly fascinating. The idea that there exists a particle so small that it can pass, utterly unhindered, through the whole freaking planet just blows my mind.

Anyway, questions have to be asked, theories have to be proposed, silly or not!

Yes, fascinating.

Any clue to the number of nutrinos in existence? Or say the distribution of them, from the very old to the ones spitting out of the sun?

Well, for fun I did a rough calculation of the number being emitted from the sun every second, based upon the wikipedia figure that 65 billion or so strike every centimetre of the earth (facing the sun) every second. Obviously it is wildly inaccurate but the result was


as an int that is


neutrinos per second from the Sun.

I left in the spurious significant digits because they kind of help ram home how large a number it really is ..

By all means, continue the questioning. Quantum stuff got silly a long time before I was born, and no doubt it will continue to get sillier, ie, non-intuitive.

I'm just saying that the math runs way ahead of our intuitive grasp of reality, hence the mind-blowing capabilities. Saying something is too small to measure, and could be anywhere? That's very close to saying it isn't there, at least in a classical sense.

Oh tell me about it. Quantum mechanics is just nuts. And if you think the normal stuff is bad, try reading up on Foam Theory et al; guaranteed to make you wish you had been born a duck or something and had never even heard of science.

However, the point I was trying to make was - (almost) too small to measure is just so, but in vast quantities becomes significant. And everything's like that really, it's just a matter of degree. What "classical" physics would call an atom is treated as more of a probability field these days. This seems to be the same thing, just with the probability turned way down!

You understand the quandary, right? I mean, it's one thing to say an electron really exists as a probability cloud and not some little particle, that it collapses into a particle. It's not there, but it's "in there" somewhere. Even electron tunneling is understandable: the electron is kind of in this "smear" and sometimes that smear can cross barriers. It's quite another thing once the cloud reaches the boundaries of the universe, and the particle can pass through a solar system and still not be affected.

It's everywhere, it's nowhere. It's huge, it's small. We've got all the classical bits of silliness in there.

Well, what can I say? That's reality for you. "Collapsing" is just a convenient shortcut for calculation/conceptualisation purposes but never actually happens IRL. In fact the whole "classical" construct you mention is just that; nothing but a convenient oversimplification.

It's crazy all right, but exciting too. Personally I can't wait until we can harness these new understandings for technological advancement; somehow using neutrinos for communications, for example.

But... neutrino is such a silly name. It would be a cold day in hell before I studied a particle with such a name!

</tease> ;-)

Call me crazy, but on this subject at least I'll take Enrico Fermi's aesthetic judgment over yours.

If I have to manipulate a big equation I give nicknames to the different pieces, like "the curvature leftovers" or "the linear stuff" or "that ugly fucker from under the radical."

"The little neutral guy" seems like a perfectly natural name to me.


I was just teasing sho about http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=643051

I think I was punished enough for that!

Hope there's no hard feelings anyway, I certainly didn't intend it as some kind of attack. It can be hard to get honest feedback that hasn't been softened by politeness, so I attempt to provide it, even at the risk of being seen as a prick.

The rebuttals were instructive, by the way. One person chided me thus:

"You could try couching it in some politeness"

And I suppose it is easy enough for me to do that. I am usually extremely polite. But is that really what you want? "Polite feedback only?" If that's what you want, ask your Mom.

Despite what you might think, I do try to be honest and, more importantly, useful. My actual, real-life reaction to that company name was visceral - I really hated it. I tried to get that across; it was pretty late, and I was somewhat drunk (hehe), maybe I dialed up the harshness a little too high but reading it again I don't think I was that far off the mark. And certainly better than misrepresenting myself for the sake of protecting feelings.

Obviously there is a balance to be found between worthless feelgood encouragement and worthless destructive "that sucks" snark. Perhaps in this instance I went too far to the latter. But at the same time, look at the whole thread. No-one else even mentioned the name. Was it because they all love it? Or because something so fundamental is off-limits?

It cost me 20 mod points or something to get that point across, not that I care about that, but still - now you know that some people think the name sucks and it might be a problem. I am satisfied with the outcome.

Do you really want everyone to be following the principle "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all"?

Dude, I was just teasing you. You'll notice I didn't even reply to that thread. I'm the last person to be bothered by harsh online feedback (which would be hypocritical considering I dish out a fair bit of it myself).

You can imagine we didn't come up with this name without some thought, and we did do some testing of it before releasing it. Yes, some people will have an immediate adverse reaction to it, but they're a tiny minority, from what we observed. Most are puzzled by the name, but they don't care that much. One advantage we get from this name is that it sounds different from the competition, and so people remember us.

It's all about trade-offs.

Anyway, the above point was just a tease, I'm fine with feedback in all its forms.

OK we cool then : )

I have to admit, the name is memorable. By that metric, you've succeeded admirably. It might be seared into my brain as "worst name ever" but - it's seared into my brain, lol ...

Actually, I have always liked the word neutrino! Cool name for a ridiculously cool, and mysterious, particle. Good thing I like them too, apparently I have 50 trillion of them passing through my body every second.

Ok. It's time I asked the question: is the plural neutrinni?

Because I'm not about to tell my friends we're surrounded by tiny, ancient neutrinni that nobody can see but exist everywhere at the same time.

Call it dark matter. That was an awesome-sounding name.

The plural is simply "neutrinos".

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