I have written blogs about CRISPR in the past. In one of thses blogs, in 2016, I talked about the possible ethical ramifications of the use of the technology in the future. My other blog, the next year, was just a link to a description of how the technology works. The scientists who developed this technology have now received the ultimate recognition, the Nobel Prize. But, as happens in many cases, there is some controversy about whether other deserving people have been left out of this honor. This article gives a broader perspective on this subject, including some history.
Check out this article from the BBC.
Here are a few bullets from the article describing these neutrinos.
The mysterious neutrino
- Second most abundant particle in the Universe, after photons of light
- Means ‘small neutral one’ in Italian; was first proposed by Wolfgang Pauli in 1930
- Uncharged, and created in nuclear reactions and some radioactive decay chains
- Shown to have a tiny mass, but hardly interacts with other particles of matter
- Comes in three flavours, or types, referred to as muon, tau and electron
- These flavours are able to oscillate – flip from one type to another – during flight
What is more interesting to me is the process that led to where we are today in terms of the discovery, study, and understanding of these particles. The first hint of the existence of these particles was due to an anomaly in the math related to radioactive behavior that was observed in the 1930s. Although the existence of the particle was proposed at that time, there was no proof in this regard. Over the years physicists were able to prove the real existence of these particles through actual observations, and then, over a further period of time, overcome some issues related to a more complete understanding of these particles. It turns out that once they were able to observe neutrinos, they still could not get the numbers to agree as to the quantity of these particles. The physicists who got the Nobel prize were able to discover that these particles were changing flavors continuously, while the early processes for detecting the particles was only seeing one of these flavors. This discovery was apparently only made in the early 2000s. It finally all made sense, and apparently the fact that these particles can change flavors during flight also implies that they also have mass, a fact that was not known in the past.
Amazing stuff! And I am sure that we are not done yet with our proper understanding of these particles.
It is wonderful to see the scientific process lead to discoveries like this that give us a better understanding of the world that we live in. We still have a long way to go.
It is all about continuing to ask questions, and in persisting in the efforts to get the answers. Articles of faith can often turn out to be problematic.