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http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/particles/neutrino3.html

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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Nave

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

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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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

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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Neutrinos

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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

R

Nave

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2/4/2015 2:58 PM

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