Science Technology

Who is “The Smarter than Albert Person of the Year”?


There are many deserving people doing many amazing things. Some have discovered cures for disease, some have made new discoveries in physics, and others have invented new products.

Efforts are going on presently to discover a sustainable process to create nuclear fusion.

And still other people have dedicated themselves to humanity and are philanthropic. Many have made a world of difference changing lives with their giving.

Pouring through stacks of news stories, looking at magazine articles, some on health, some on longevity studies, some on physical sciences, or researching people on the web led me to create a short list to pick those most worthy of such an accolade. I want this selection to mean something.

Should the person be a scientist, a humanitarian, a writer, an artist, a musician, make films, be a world leader? 

I tried to ascertain the long term value of the person’s actions or discovery. Would this be something that would affect us for all time such as cure for cancer, or ALS? That would have been the case if a cure for either of those diseases had been discovered. Sadly, a cure was not discovered.

I picked two individuals who share the 2015 Nobel Prize for Physics, Takaaki Kajita of Japan and Arthur B. McDonald of Canada for the discovery of neutrino oscillations, which shows that neutrinos have mass”.  They have been working on their discoveries since the 1990’s.

neutrino flash back in time to December 1930. An Austrian Physicist named Wolfgang Pauli was trying to explain missing energy from a type of radioactive decay known as Beta decay where a proton is transformed into a neutron, or a neutron into a proton.

He was the one who first proposed an electrically neutral, weakly interacting particle. Because the particle was electrically neutral, it was called a neutrino.

 Flash forward.

Why does it matter? Aside from photons of light, neutrinos are thought to be the most abundant particle in the universe. We don’t know a lot about them yet. But they may have played a significant role in the outcome of regular matter- us – and antimatter – like regular matter, but with opposite electrical charges. The neutrino may have been critical to us being here.

Back to the work of Takaaki Kajiita and Arthur B McDonald: Scientists have used old mine shafts and placed huge tanks of very pure water at their bottom. They have been watching for years to see the very rare impacts of neutrinos with an atomic nucleus or an electron. They also have facilities under miles of ice in Antarctica.

Very simply stated, there are three known types of neutrinos. The numbers of the type of neutrinos that come from the sun (electron neutrinos) when measured were too low. But the total count of all three, Electron, Muon, and Tao, were just about right – Were the different types changing identities becoming one of the other types? This is called neutrino oscillation. Simple answer: Yes. To do so would also require that all have mass. To have mass contradicts the Standard Model which says they should not have mass. Hence the standard model, as it is, contains some errors or we misunderstand things. It doesn’t sound like much, but it is. You cannot be a little bit pregnant.

Using a different discipline to give an example, think of this in another way; Anthropologists study little fragments of bones from our ancestors. From those pieces, they can possibly assemble them to create a finger, and then perhaps a hand or a maybe it turns out not to be a hand but rather a leg bone, or even a pelvis and from that an Anthropologist might determine whether the individual walked upright, or was really a human ancestor.

Once we find out where human ancestors lived, we use archaeology to learn about their lives – how they lived and what they did, and from that information we can learn about entire civilizations.

So too it is with particle physics. Knowledge is created from little bits of information.

You will remember from a previous article that I expect that this year or next, information will be released from the Large Hadron Collider at CERN that discredits SUSY or Super Symmetry and all of its related theories attached to it, such as string theory, or of parallel universes.

What is left was the Standard Model. But now it too appears to also be flawed. Our current ideas are incomplete. We need new discoveries. Neutrinos are incredibly tiny parts of the puzzle of the universe. It’s good to reinforce what we know, but just as important to learn what we don’t know.

What are your thoughts? Perhaps you can shed some light on new discoveries.

or check out our most recent articles:

What can you do to improve your life? Part II
What Can You Do to Improve Your Life? – Part 1
How can the average person become smarter?

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