Reasons to Believe

Have the Real “God Particles” Been Found? Part 1 (of 4)

Exciting developments in astronomy and particle physics appear to be providing probable, thought not yet positive, evidence for the existence of sterile neutrinos and axions, particles that hold the possibility of solving numerous problems in our understanding of the universe and greatly bolstering the evidence for design.

These breakthroughs are so significant, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone or some team involved in these research efforts walks away with the Nobel Prize.

For the next four weeks I will be exploring the importance of sterile neutrinos and axions, the efforts to identify them, and their impact on creation arguments.

The God Particle?
Several physicists have written popular level books about the “God particle,”1 a label attached to the Higgs boson. In the standard particle creation model, the Higgs boson would explain how most of the known fundamental particles become massive. It would also explain the difference between the photon (which has no mass and mediates the force of electromagnetism) and W and Z bosons (which are very massive and mediate the weak nuclear force—the force that governs radiometric decay).

While particle physicists have invented particle creation models devoid of Higgs bosons, the one that includes them offers the best fit with cosmological creation models. The Higgs boson garnered its popular “God particle” moniker because it neatly ties together our best understanding of the creation of the universe and the creation of fundamental particles. This potential unification of creation models also accounts for the unprecedented expenditure of research dollars and physicist man-hours in the search for the Higgs boson. The nine billion dollar Large Hadron Collider (see figure 1) represents the latest effort to discover this elusive particle.


Figure 1: The Large Hadron Collider
The Compact Muon Solenoid particle detector’s multistory endcap disc, known as YE-3, resides at the end of a 27-kilometer (17 mile) long particle accelerator path. The entire complex, known as the Large Hadron Collider, ranks as the most expensive science experiment ever conducted and as the most powerful particle accelerator in the world. It’s capable of generating particle beams of protons at an energy of seven teraelectronvolts (7 trillion electron volts) per particle.
Image credit: CERN

Media attention showered on the Higgs boson overshadows another particle that may be much more deserving of the “God particle” title, and much easier and cheaper to discover. In fact, it is possible, even likely, that astronomers have already found it. This enigmatic particle is the sterile neutrino.

The Eunuchs of the Universe
The Bible recounts the positive impact of certain eunuchs on the course of human history.2 Likewise, certain sterile particles, namely sterile neutrinos, are proving to be amazingly productive. They resolve several anomalies in our understanding of how particles are created, strengthen the case for the supernatural design of the universe for humanity’s benefit, and buttress the evidence for a cosmic creation event in the very manner that Old Testament prophets had long ago predicted.3 Such productivity explains why the last year alone saw the publication of over 100 research papers about sterile neutrinos.4 Making the research effort all the more remarkable is the fact that sterile neutrinos have yet to be directly detected at a level of proof beyond reasonable doubt.

What exactly are these sterile particles that astronomers and physicists study so eagerly? All neutrinos, both regular and sterile, are exotic mass particles. Exotic matter differs from ordinary matter in that it does not strongly interact with photons. Furthermore, exotic matter makes up 23 percent of the stuff in the universe, while ordinary matter (predominantly protons, neutrons, and electrons) ranks at just 4.4 percent. (Dark energy makes up the other 73 percent of the universe.)

Regular (active) neutrinos are extremely low mass, electrically neutral particles produced copiously by the nuclear fusion reactions that operate in the furnaces of most stars. They come in three “flavors” (tau, muon, and electron), all three of which exhibit left-handed spin. Physicists label these neutrinos as active because they are capable of weak interactions with ordinary matter via gravity and the weak nuclear force but not electromagnetism. When physicists say weak, they aren’t kidding. Most of the neutrinos making “contact” with Earth pass right through without interacting with even one proton, neutron, electron, or photon.

Sterile neutrinos possess right-handed spin and are called sterile because they are “flavorless” and interact with ordinary matter only through the gravitational force (by far the weakest of all the forces). Introducing sterile neutrinos into the “standard model” of particle physics is the simplest way to explain both the masses and the spins of active neutrinos.5 It is also the simplest explanation for the missing small-scale structures of the universe, that is, the apparent paucity of dwarf and sub-dwarf galaxies in the universe.6

The Great Problem Solver
The existence of sterile neutrinos would solve eight more remaining problems (anomalies) in the standard creation model of cosmology and particle physics simultaneously:

  1. Why the first stars formed so early, just 200–300 million years after the cosmic creation event7
  2. Why the creation of the universe produced slightly more baryons (protons and neutrons) than it did anti-baryons8 (if it did not, galaxies, stars, or planets could not exist)
  3. Why certain pulsars manifest rapid kick-out velocities from their birthing locations9
  4. Why r-process nucleosynthesis (the means by which core-collapse supernovae produce about half of all the neutron-rich nuclei in the universe that are heavier than iron) generates the observed abundance pattern for elements of atomic weight greater than 10010
  5. Why certain supernova shocks are so energetic11
  6. Why exotic dark matter (which does not interact strongly with ordinary matter) halos are so smooth and symmetrical12
  7. Why supermassive black holes (exceeding one million times the Sun’s mass) form so early in the history of the universe13
  8. Why the successful ΛCDM model of the universe now appears to require a slight modification, namely the addition of some warm dark matter  to complement the predominant cold dark matter.14 (According to the ΛCDM model, the cosmos is an inflationary hot big bang universe dominated primarily by dark energy and secondarily by exotic dark matter where most of the exotic dark matter is in a cold state, that is, where the particles making up the exotic dark matter are moving at low velocities relative to the velocity of light. Sterile neutrinos are warm, that is, move at velocities between close to zero and near the velocity of light.)

No other proposal in physics offers any hope for resolving all eight of these residual anomalies in the big bang creation model. For this reason physicists and astronomers are convinced sterile neutrinos must exist even though no one has yet produced a proof positive detection of them.

However, as I will discuss in part 2 of this series, astronomers have discovered why in their two-decade-long search for sterile neutrinos they have come up empty and where instead they should be looking for these elusive particles. In part 3, I will recount where astronomers already may have found sterile neutrinos without realizing it. In part 4, I will explain the connection between sterile neutrinos and another “God particle,” the axion. I will describe where astronomers can quickly garner confirming evidence for both sterile neutrinos and axions, and conclude with a summary of the theological advances we can expect from these discoveries, both current and emerging.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Subjects: Origin of the Universe, Particle Physics, Universe Design

Dr. Hugh Ross

Reasons to Believe emerged from my passion to research, develop, and proclaim the most powerful new reasons to believe in Christ as Creator, Lord, and Savior and to use those new reasons to reach people for Christ. Read more about Dr. Hugh Ross.

References:

  1. The most famous example is The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question? by physics Nobel Prize winner Leon M. Lederman and science writer Dick Teresi (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993).
  2. 2 Kings 9:30–37, 20:18; Esther 2:1–18; Jeremiah 38:7–13; Daniel 1:3–21; Acts 8:28–40.
  3. Hugh Ross, More Than a Theory (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009), 73–83, 89–90, 94–119.
  4. In 2010, 106 research papers, including preprints posted at the Los Alamos website for physics preprints (www.arxiv.org), refer to sterile neutrinos in their abstracts.
  5. Takehiko Asaka, Steve Blanchet, and Mikhail Shaposhnikov, “The vMSM, Dark Matter, and Neutrino Masses,” Physics Letters B 631 (December 2005): 151–56.
  6. A. D. Dolgov and S. H. Hansen, “Massive Sterile Neutrinos as Warm Dark Matter,” Astroparticle Physics 16(January 2002): 339–44; Uroš Seljak et al., “Can Sterile Neutrinos Be the Dark Matter?” Physical Review Letters 97 (November 2006): 191303.
  7. Jaroslaw Stasielak, Peter L. Biermann, and Alexander Kusenko, “Thermal Evolution of the Primordial Clouds in Warm Dark Matter Models with keV Sterile Neutrinos,” Astrophysical Journal 654 (January 1, 2007): 290–303; Peter L. Biermann and Alexander Kusenko, “Relic keV Sterile Neutrinos and Reionization,” Physical Review Letters 96(March 2006): 091301.
  8. Takehiko Asaka and Mikhail Shaposhnikov, “The vMSM, Dark Matter, and Baryon Asymmetry of the Universe,” Physics Letters B 620 (July 2005): 17–26.
  9. George M. Fuller et al., “Pulsar Kicks from a Dark-Matter Sterile Neutrino,” Physical Review D 68 (November 2003): 103002; Alexander Kusenko, “Sterile Neutrinos, Dark Matter, and Pulsar Velocities in Models with a Higgs Singlet,” Physical Review Letters 97 (December 2006): 241301.
  10. J. Beun et al., “Fission Cycling in Supernova Nucleosynthesis: Active-Sterile Neutrino Oscillations,” Physical Review D 73 (May 2006): 093007; G. C. McLaughlin et al., “Active-Sterile Neutrino Transformation Solution for r-Process Nucleosynthesis,” Physical Review C 59 (May 1999): 2873–87.
  11. Christopher L. Fryer and Alexander Kusenko, “Effects of Neutrino-Driven Kicks on the Supernova Explosion Mechanism,” Astrophysical Journal Supplement 163 (April 2006): 335–43; Jun Hidaka and George M. Fuller, “Dark Matter Sterile Neutrinos in Stellar Collapse: Alteration of Energy/Lepton Number Transport, and a Mechanism for Supernova Explosion Enhancement,” Physical Review D 74 (December 2006): 125015.
  12. Peter L. Biermann and Faustin Munyaneza, “Dark Matter and Sterile Neutrinos,” in The Eleventh Marcel Grossman Meeting on Recent Developments in Theoretical and Experimental General Relativity, Gravitation, and Relativistic Field Theories, Proceedings of the MG11 Meeting on General Relativity, held July 23–29, 2006 in Berlin, ed. Hagen Ruffini (September 2008): 291–308.
  13. Faustin Munyaneza and Peter L. Biermann, “Fast Growth of Supermassive Black Holes in Galaxies,” Astronomy and Astrophysics 436 (June 4, 2005): 805–15.
  14. Jan Hamann et al., “Cosmology Favoring Extra Radiation and Sub-eV Mass Sterile Neutrinos as an Option,” Physical Review Letters 105 (October 2010): 181301; H. J. de Vega, M. C. Falvella, and N. G. Sanchez, “Highlights and Conclusions of the Chalonge 14th Paris Cosmology Colloquium 2010: ‘The Standard Model of the Universe; Theory and Observations,’” (September 2010): arXiv1009.3494V.2.