Email Print Share

Imagine That! -- "Neutrino Underground"

Imagine That!
Audio Play Audio

Imagine That! -- "Neutrino Underground"

Credit: NSF/Finger Lakes Productions International

Audio Transcript:

They're invisible. They whiz around at the speed of light. And they're flying through you right now!

Imagine that!

(SOUND: whizzing)

Today, hundreds of scientists around the world are probing the secrets of elusive subatomic particles called neutrinos. But it's hard to study particles with no charge or weight that you can't even see. So researchers at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory are creating neutrinos and beaming them through the Earth, to a detector four hundred and fifty miles away. That trip, from Illinois to Minnesota, takes a neutrino only one four-hundreth of a second. Out of trillions of neutrinos that make the trip each year, only about fifteen hundred end up colliding with particles in the detector in Minnesota. During their trip, some may change into different kinds of neutrinos. Deborah Harris, a physicist at Fermi, describes the transformation.

Harris: "It's really a weird phenomenon. Instead of head and tails, it's like you flip a quarter and a dime lands instead -- I mean it's really, really different."

(SOUND: coin landing on surface)

The colliding neutrinos send out detectable signals indicating what type of neutrino they've become. Because neutrinos result from both fission and fusion, lots of them originate within the sun. Eventually, they may help explain the evolution of the sun, along with the origins of atoms -- the building blocks of the universe. I'm Eric Phillips.

"Imagine That!" covers projects funded by the U.S. government's National Science Foundation. Federally-sponsored research -- brought to you by you! Learn more at

General Restrictions:
Images and other media in the National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery are available for use in print and electronic material by NSF employees, members of the media, university staff, teachers and the general public. All media in the gallery are intended for personal, educational and nonprofit/non-commercial use only.

Images credited to the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, are in the public domain. The images were created by employees of the United States Government as part of their official duties or prepared by contractors as "works for hire" for NSF. You may freely use NSF-credited images and, at your discretion, credit NSF with a "Courtesy: National Science Foundation" notation. Additional information about general usage can be found in Conditions.