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Left-Handed Neutrinos
The relative orientations of spin and linear momentum for neutrinos and
antineutrinos is apparently fixed and intrinsic to the particles.

For neutrinos the spin is always opposite the linear momentum and this is
referred to as "left-handed", whereas the antineutrinos are always "righthanded". This evokes the picture of the right-hand rule for vector angular
momentum. In this convention, the fingers of the right hand are used to
indicate the sense of the spin or orbital motion, with the thumb pointing in
the direction of the defined angular momentum. The momentum of the
particle is used to define a preferred direction in space, and if you curled the
Index
fingers of your right hand to show the sense of the "spin" of the antineutrino,
your thumb would point in this momentum direction. Hence it is a "righthanded" particle. For the neutrino, you would have to use the fingers of your Reference
left hand to get your thumb to point in the direction of the linear momentum. Griffiths
Sec 4.6
This "left-handed" vs "right-handed" characterization is not meaningful for
other particles, like electrons. An electron could have spin to the right and be
traveling right and therefore be classified as right-handed. But from the
reference frame of someone traveling faster than the electron, its velocity
would be to the left, while its spin would be unchanged. This would mean
that the electron is a left-handed particle with respect to that reference
frame.
For neutrinos, however, which are traveling at the speed of light or very close
to it, you cannot accelerate to a greater speed and thereby change their
"handedness". We say that the neutrinos have "intrinsic parity", all of them
being left-handed. This causes the weak interactions which emit neutrinos or
antineutrinos to violate conservation of parity.
The property which has been called left-handed and right-handed here is
sometimes called "helicity". The helicity of a particle is defined as the ratio
ms/s, or the z-component of spin divided by the magnitude of the spin. By
this definition in this case, the helicity is +1 for a right-handed antineutrino
and -1 for a left-handed neutrino.
Neutrinos as leptons Role in supernova Other neutrino types

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Neutrino Cross Section


The nominal neutrino cross section
for interaction with a nucleon
increases with energy as indicated by
the data at right cited by Rohlf. The
data displayed at right is taken at
energies far above the range of
neutrinos from radioactive decay.
The slope of the straight line at right,
when extrapolated down to 1 MeV,
gives a cross section more like 10-45
m2. This is still three orders of
magnitude larger than the crosssection measured by Cowan &
Reines in their pioneering
experiment. Rohlf's comment was
that this linear energy dependence of
the cross-section was for neutrino
energies large compared to the mass
energies of the quarks, so an
extrapolation to the energies of
ordinary radioactive decay is asking
too much.
The original neutrino detection by Reines and Cowan was based on the
reaction

Index
Reference
Rohlf
Sec 18.2
Griffiths
Sec. 1.5
Krane
Int.
Nuclear
Physics
Sec. 9.6

This interaction is related by crossing symmetry to the decay of the neutron,


the simplest example of beta decay. It is in fact sometimes referred to as
"inverse beta decay". So it would appear that the study of beta decay could
give an approach to the cross-section for the neutrino interaction.

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The approach to calculating the cross-section for the interaction is based on


Fermi's Golden Rule , and if a matrix element can be found for the weak
interaction in one of these reactions it should be comparable in the other.
Estimates of the weak interaction coupling strength come from applying the
Fermi theory of beta decay in some special cases. Krane does this to arrive at
an estimate of 10-43 cm2 = 10-47 m2 for the neutrino cross section in the beta
decay range of energy. This is about 20 orders of magnitude less than the
scattering cross-section for two nucleons at low energy!
With this nominal cross section, some estimates of rates of interaction can be
made. Multiplying the cross section times the nucleon density gives a number
of interactions per meter, and the inverse of that is an estimate of the mean
free path. For water with a density of 1000 kg/m3, the mean free path for a
neutrino can be estimated from

One perspective on these distances is to compare to a light year

So this estimate of mean free path is more than a light year of lead! A fairly
common qualitative statement in physics texts is that the mean free path of a
neutrino is about a light-year of lead. Griffiths makes the statement "a
neutrino of moderate energy could easily penetrate a thousand light-years(!)
of lead." This cross section can also be used to estimate the number of events
which can be expected in a given size of detector.

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The Bahcall calculation of the solar neutrino flux is about 5 x 106 /cm2s at
the Earth's surface. In what is called the "solar neutrino problem", only about
a third to one half this many were measured in early experiments. Current
experiments at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory suggest that neutrino
oscillation transmutes some of the solar electron neutrinos into muon and tau
neutrinos. When that is taken into account in the recent SNO experiments,
the flux is in close agreement with the Bahcall estimate.
Neutrinos as leptons Role in supernova Other neutrino types
Neutrino cross-section in the Reines & Cowan experiment

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