LOG#121. Basic Neutrinology(VI).

Models where the space-time is not 3+1 dimensional but higher dimensional (generally D=d+1=4+n dimensional, where n is the number of spacelike extra dimensions) are popular since the beginnings of the 20th century.

The fundamental scale of gravity need not to be the 4D “effective” Planck scale M_P but a new scale M_f (sometimes called M_D), and it could be as low as M_f\sim 1-10TeV. The observed Planck scale M_P (related to the Newton constant G_N) is then related to M_f in D=4+n dimensions by a relationship like the next equation:


Here, R is the radius of the typical length of the extra dimensions. We can consider an hypertorus T^n=(S^1)^n=S^1\times \underbrace{\cdots}_{n-times} \times S^1 for simplicity (but other topologies are also studied in the literature). In fact, the coupling is M_f/M_P\sim 10^{-16} if we choose M_f\sim 1TeV. When we take more than one extra dimension, e.g., taking n=2, the radius R of the extra dimension(s) can be as “large” as 1 millimeter! This fact can be understood as the “proof” that there could be hidden from us “large” extra dimensions. They could be only detected by many, extremely precise, measurements that exist at present or future experiments. However, it also provides a new test of new physics (perhaps fiction science for many physicists) and specially, we could explore the idea of hidden space dimensions and how or why is so feeble with respect to any other fundamental interaction.

According to the SM and the standard gravity framework (General Relativity), every group charged particle is localized on a 3-dimensional hypersurface that we could call “brane” (or SM brane). This brane is embedded in “the bulk” of the higher dimensional Universe (with n extra space-like dimensions). All the particles can be separated into two categories: 1) those who live on the (SM) 3-brane, and 2) those who live “everywhere”, i.e., in “all the bulk” (including both the extra dimensions and our 3-brane where the SM fields only can propagate). The “bulk modes” are (generally speaking) quite “model dependent”, but any coupling between the brane where the SM lives and the bulk modes should be “suppressed” somehow. One alternative is provided by the geometrical factors of “extra dimensions” (like the one written above). Another option is to modify the metric where the fields propagate. This last recipe is the essence of non-factorizable models built by Randall, Sundrum, Shaposhnikov, Rubakov, Pavŝiĉ and many others as early as in the 80’s of the past century. Graviton and its “propagating degrees of freedom” or possible additional neutral states belongs to the second category. Indeed, the observed weakness of gravity in the 3-brane can be understood as a result of the “new space dimensions” in which gravity can live. However, there is no clear signal of extra dimensions until now (circa 2013, July).

The small coupling constant derived from the Planck mass above can also be used in order to explain the smallness of the neutrino masses! The left-handed neutrino \nu_L having weak isospin and hypercharge is thought to reside in the SM brane in this picture. It can get a “naturally samll” Dirac mass through the mixing with some “bulk fermion” (e.g., the right-handed neutrino or any other neutral fermion under the SM gauge group) which can be interpreted as a right-handed neutrino \nu_R:

\mathcal{L}(m,Dirac)\sim h\eta H\bar{\nu}_L\nu_R

Here, H,h are the two Higgs doublet fields and the Yukawa coupling, respectively. After spontaneous symmetry breaking, this interaction will generate the Dirac mass term

m_D=hv\eta\sim 10^{-5}eV

The right-handed neutrino \nu_R has a hole tower of Kaluza-Klein relatives \nu_{i,R}. The masses of these states are given by

M_{i,R}=\dfrac{i}{R} i=0,\pm 1,\pm 2,\ldots, \pm \infty

and the \nu_L couples with all KK state having the same “mixing” mass. Thus, we can write the mass lagrangian as





Are you afraid of “infinite” neutrino flavors? The resulting neutrino mass matrix M is “an infinite array” with structure:

\mathbb{M}=\begin{pmatrix}m_D &\sqrt{2}m_D &\sqrt{2}m_D &\ldots &\sqrt{2}m_D &\ldots \\ 0 &1/R &0 &\ldots &0 & \ldots\\ 0 & 0 &2/R & \ldots & 0 &\ldots \\ \ldots & \ldots & \ldots & \ldots & k/R & \ldots\\ \ldots & \ldots & \ldots & \ldots & \ldots & \ldots\end{pmatrix}

The eigenvalues of the matrix MM^+ are given by a trascendental equation. In the limit where m_DR\sim 0, or m_D\sim 0, the eigenvalues are \lambda\sim k/R, where k\in \mathbb{Z} and \lambda=0 is a double eigenvalue (i.e., it is doubly degenerated). There are other examples with LR symmetry. For instance, SU(2)_R right-handed neutrinos that, living on the SM brane, were additional neutrino species. In these models, it has been showed that the left-handed neutrino is exactly massless whereas the assumed bulk and “sterile” neutrino have a mass related to the size of the extra dimensions. These models produce masses that can be fitted to the expected values \sim 10^{-3}eV coming from estimations at hand with the neutrino oscillation data, but generally, this implies that there should be at least one extra dimension with size in the micrometer range or less!

The main issues that extra dimension models of neutrino masses do have is related to the question of the renormalizability of their interactions. With an infinite number of KK states and/or large extra dimensions, extreme care have to be taken in order to not spoil the SM renormalizability and, at some point, it implies that the KK tower must be truncated at some level. There is no general principle or symmetry that explain this cut-off to my knowledge.

May the neutrinos and the extra dimensions be with you!

See you in my next neutrinological post!

LOG#120. Basic Neutrinology(V).

Supersymmetry (SUSY) is one of the most discussed ideas in theoretical physics. I am not discussed its details here (yet, in this blog). However, in this thread, some general features are worth to be told about it. SUSY model generally include a symmetry called R-parity, and its breaking provide an interesting example of how we can generate neutrino masses WITHOUT using a right-handed neutrino at all. The price is simple: we have to add new particles and then we enlarge the Higgs sector. Of course, from a pure phenomenological point, the issue is to discover SUSY! On the theoretical aside, we can discuss any idea that experiments do not exclude. Today, after the last LHC run at 8TeV, we have not found SUSY particles, so the lower bounds of supersymmetric particles have been increased. Which path will Nature follow? SUSY, LR models -via GUTs or some preonic substructure, or something we can not even imagine right now? Only experiment will decide in the end…

In fact, in a generic SUSY model, dut to the Higgs and lepton doublet superfields, we have the same SU(3)_c\times SU(2)_L\times U(1)_Y quantum numbers. We also have in the so-called “superpotential” terms, bilinear or trilinear pieces in the superfields that violate the (global) baryon and lepton number explicitly. Thus, they lead to mas terms for the neutrino but also to proton decays with unacceptable high rates (below the actual lower limit of the proton lifetime, about 10^{33}  years!). To protect the proton experimental lifetime, we have to introduce BY HAND a new symmetry avoiding the terms that give that “too high” proton decay rate. In SUSY models, this new symmetry is generally played by the R-symmetry I mentioned above, and it is generally introduced in most of the simplest models including SUSY, like the Minimal Supersymmetric Standard Model (MSSM). A general SUSY superpotential can be written in this framework as

(1) \mathcal{W}'=\lambda{ijk}L_iL_jE_l^c+\lambda'_{ijk}L_iQ_jD_k^c+\lambda''_{ijk}D_i^cD_j^cU_k^c+\epsilon_iL_iH_2

A less radical solution is to allow for the existence in the superpotential of a bilinear term with structure \epsilon_3L_3H_2. This is the simplest way to realize the idea of generating the neutrino masses without spoiling the current limits of proton decay/lifetime. The bilinear violation of R-parity implied by the \epsilon_3 term leads by a minimization condition to a non-zero vacuum expectation value or vev, v_3. In such a model, the \tau neutrino acquire a mass due to the mixing between neutrinos and the neutralinos.The \nu_e, v_\mu neutrinos remain massless in this toy model, and it is supposed that they get masses from the scalar loop corrections. The model is phenomenologically equivalent to a “3 Higgs doublet” model where one of these doublets (the sneutrino) carry a lepton number which is broken spontaneously. The mass matrix for the neutralino-neutrino secto, in a “5×5” matrix display, is:

(2) \mathbb{M}=\begin{pmatrix}G_{2x2} & Q_{ab}^1 & Q_{ab}^2 & Q_{ab}^3\\ Q_{ab}^{1T} & 0 & -\mu & 0\\ Q_{ab}^{2T} & -\mu & 0 & \epsilon_3\\ Q_{ab}^{3T} & 0 & \epsilon_3 & 0\end{pmatrix}

and where the matrix G_{2x2}=\mbox{diag}(M_1, M_2) corresponds to the two “gauginos”. The matrix Q_{ab} is a 2×3 matrix and it contains the vevs of the two higgses H_1,H_2 plus the sneutrino, i.e., v_u, v_d, v_3 respectively. The remaining two rows are the Higgsinos and the tau neutrino. It is necessary to remember that gauginos and Higgsinos are the supersymmetric fermionic partners of the gauge fields and the Higgs fields, respectively.

I should explain a little more the supersymmetric terminology. The neutralino is a hypothetical particle predicted by supersymmetry. There are some neutralinos that are fermions and are electrically neutral, the lightest of which is typically stable. They can be seen as mixtures between binos and winos (the sparticles associated to the b quark and the W boson) and they are generally Majorana particles. Because these particles only interact with the weak vector bosons, they are not directly produced at hadron colliders in copious numbers. They primarily appear as particles in cascade decays of heavier particles (decays that happen in multiple steps) usually originating from colored  supersymmetric particles such as squarks or gluinos. In R-parity conserving models, the lightest neutralino is stable and all supersymmetric cascade-decays end up decaying into this particle which leaves the detector unseen and its existence can only be inferred by looking for unbalanced momentum (missing transverse energy) in a detector. As a heavy, stable particle, the lightest neutralino is an excellent candidate to comprise the universe’s cold dark matter. In many models the lightest neutralino can be produced thermally in the hot early Universe and leave approximately the right relic abundance to account for the observed dark matter. A lightest neutralino of roughly 10-10^4 GeV is the leading weakly interacting massive particle (WIMP) dark matter candidate.

Neutralino dark matter could be observed experimentally in nature either indirectly or directly. In the former case, gamma ray and neutrino telescopes look for evidence of neutralino annihilation in regions of high dark matter density such as the galactic or solar centre. In the latter case, special purpose experiments such as the (now running) Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS)  seek to detect the rare impacts of WIMPs in terrestrial detectors. These experiments have begun to probe interesting supersymmetric parameter space, excluding some models for neutralino dark matter, and upgraded experiments with greater sensitivity are under development.

If we return to the matrix (2) above, we observe that when we diagonalize it, a “seesaw”-like mechanism is again at mork. There, the role of M_D, M_R can be easily recognized. The \nu_\tau mass is provided by

m_{\nu_\tau}\propto \dfrac{(v_3')^2}{M}

where v_3'\equiv \epsilon_3v_d+\mu v_3 and M is the largest gaugino mass. However, an arbitrary SUSY model produces (unless M is “large” enough) still too large tau neutrino masses! To get a realistic and small (1777 GeV is “small”) tau neutrino mass, we have to assume some kind of “universality” between the “soft SUSY breaking” terms at the GUT scale. This solution is not “natural” but it does the work. In this case, the tau neutrino mass is predicted to be tiny due to cancellations between the two terms which makes negligible the vev v_3'. Thus, (2) can be also written as follows

(3) \begin{pmatrix}M_1 & 0 & -\frac{1}{2}g'v_d & \frac{1}{2}g'v_u & -\frac{1}{2}g'v_3\\ 0 & M_2 & \frac{1}{2}gv_d & -\frac{1}{2}gv_u & \frac{1}{2}gv_3\\ -\frac{1}{2}g'v_d & \frac{1}{2}gv_d & 0 & -\mu & 0\\ \frac{1}{2}g'v_u& -\frac{1}{2}gv_u& -\mu & 0 & \epsilon_3\\ -\frac{1}{2}g'v_3 & \frac{1}{2}gv_3 & 0 & \epsilon_3 & 0\end{pmatrix}

We can study now the elementary properties of neutrinos in some elementary superstring inspired models. In some of these models, the effective theory implies a supersymmetric (exceptional group) E_6 GUT with matter fields belong to the 27 dimensional representation of the exceptional group E_6 plus additional singlet fields. The model contains additional neutral leptons in each generation and the neutral E_6 singlets, the gauginos and the Higgsinos. As the previous model, but with a larger number of them, every neutral particle can “mix”, making the undestanding of the neutrino masses quite hard if no additional simplifications or assumptions are done into the theory. In fact, several of these mechanisms have been proposed in the literature to understand the neutrino masses. For instance, a huge neutral mixing mass matris is reduced drastically down to a “3×3” neutrino mass matrix result if we mix \nu and \nu^c with an additional neutral field T whose nature depends on the particular “model building” and “mechanism” we use. In some basis (\nu, \nu^c,T), the mass matrix can be rewritten

(4) M=\begin{pmatrix}0 & m_D & 0\\ m_D & 0 & \lambda_2v_R\\ 0 & \lambda_2v_R & \mu\end{pmatrix}

and where the \mu energy scale is (likely) close to zero. We distinguish two important cases:

1st. R-parity violation.

2nd. R-parity conservation and a “mixing” with the singlet.

In both cases, the sneutrinos, superpartners of \nu^c are assumed to acquire a v.e.v. with energy size v_R. In the first case, the T field corresponds to a gaugino with a Majorana mass \mu than can be produced at two-loops! Usually \mu\approx 100GeV, and if we assume \lambda v_R\approx 1 TeV, then additional dangerous mixing wiht the Higgsinos can be “neglected” and we are lead to a neutrino mass about m_\nu\sim 0.1eV, in agreement with current bounds. The important conclusion here is that we have obtained the smallness of the neutrino mass without any fine tuning of the parameters! Of course, this is quite subjective, but there is no doubt that this class of arguments are compelling to some SUSY defenders!

In the second case, the field T corresponds to one of the E_6 singlets. We have to rely on the symmetries that may arise in superstring theory on specific Calabi-Yau spaces to restric the Yukawa couplings till “reasonable” values. If we have \mu=0 in the matrix (4) above, we deduce that a massless neutrino and a massive Dirac neutrino can be generated from this structure. If we include a possible Majorana mass term of the sfermion at a scale \mu\approx 100GeV, we get similar values of the neutrino mass as the previous case.

Final remark: mass matrices, as we have studied here, have been proposed without embedding in a supersymmetric or any other deeper theoretical frameworks. In that case, small tree level neutrino masses can be obtained without the use of large scales. That is, the structure of the neutrino mass matrix is quite “model independent” (as the one in the CKM quark mixing) if we “measure it”. Models reducing to the neutrino or quark mass mixing matrices can be obtained with the use of large energy scales OR adding new (likely “dark”) particle species to the SM (not necessarily at very high energy scales!).

LOG#119. Basic Neutrinology(IV).

A very natural way to generate the known neutrino masses is to minimally extend the SM including additional 2-spinors as RH neutrinos and at the same time extend the non-QCD electroweak SM gauge symmetry group to something like this:

G(L,R)=SU(2)_L\times SU(2)_R\times U(1)_{B-L}\times P

The resulting model, initially proposed by Pati and Salam (Phys. Rev. D.10. 275) in 1973-1974. Mohapatra and Pati reviewed it in 1975, here Phys. Rev. D. 11. 2558. It is also reviewed in Unification and Supersymmetry: the frontiers of Quark-Lepton Physics. Springer-Verlag. N.Y.1986. This class of models were first proposed with the goal of seeking a spontaneous origin for parity (P) violations in weak interactions. CP and P are conserved at large energies but at low energies, however, the group G(L,R) breaks down spontaneouly at some scale M_R. Any new physics correction to the SM would be of order


and where M\sim m_W

If we choose the alternative M_R>>M_L, we obtain only small corrections, compatible with present known physics. We can explain in this case the small quantity of CP violation observed in current experiments and why the neutrino masses are so small, as we will see below a little bit.

The quarks Q and their fields, and the leptons and their fields L, in the LR models transform as doublets under the group SU(2)_{L,R} in a simple way. (Q_L, L_L)\sim (2,1) and (Q_R,L_R)\sim (1,2). The gauge interactions are symmetric under left-handed and right-handed fermions. Thus, before spontaneous symmetry breaking, weak interactions, as any other interaction, would conserve parity symmetry and would become P-conserving at higher energies.

The breaking of the gauge symmetry is implemented by multiplets of LR symmetric Higgs fields. The concrete selection of these multiplets is NOT unique. It has been shown that in order to understand the smallness of the neutrino masses, it is convenient to choose respectively one doublet and two triplets in the following way:

\phi\sim (2,2,0) \Delta_L\sim (3,1,2) \Delta_R\sim (1,3,2)

The Yukawa couplings of these Higgs fields with the quarks and leptons are give by the lagrangian term

\mathcal{L}_Y=h_1\bar{L}_L\phi L_R+h_2\bar{L}_L\bar{\phi}L_R+h_1'\bar{Q}_L\phi Q_R+h'_2\bar{Q}_L\bar{\phi} Q_R+


The gauge symmetry breaking in LR models happens in two steps:

1st. The SU(2)_R\times U(1)_{B-L} is broken down to U(1)_Y by the v.e.v. \langle \Delta_R^0\rangle=v_R\neq 0. It carries both SU(2)_R and U(1)_{B-L} quantum numbers. It gives mass to charged and neutral RH gauge bosons, i.e.,

M_{W_R}=gv_R and M_{Z'}=\sqrt{2}gv_R/\sqrt{1-\tan^2\theta_W}

Furthermore, as consequence of the f-term in the lagrangian, above this stage of symmetry breaking also leads to a mass term for the right-handed neutrinos with order about \sim fv_R.

2nd. As we break the SM symmetry by turning on the vev’s for the scalar fields \phi

\langle \phi \rangle=\mbox{diag}(v_\kappa,v'_\kappa) with

v_R>>v'_\kappa>> v_\kappa

We give masses to the W_L and Z bosons, as well as to quarks or leptons (m_e\sim hv_\kappa). At the end of the process of spontaneous symmetry breaking (SSB), the two W bosons of the model will mix, the lowest physical mass eigenstate is identified as the observed W boson. Current experimental limits set the limit to M_{W_R}>550GeV. The LHC has also raised this bound the past year!

In the neutrino sector, the above Yukawa  couplings after SU(2)_L breaking by \langle \phi\rangle\neq 0 leads to the Dirac masses for the neutrino. The full process leads to the following mass matrix for the \nu, N states in the general neutrino mass matrix

\mathbb{M}_{\nu,N}=\begin{pmatrix}\sim 0 & hv_\kappa\\ hv_\kappa & fv_R\end{pmatrix}

corresponding to the lighter and more massive neutrino states after the diagonalization procedure. In fact, the seesaw mechanism implies the eigenvalue

m_{\nu_e}\approx (hv_\kappa)^2/fv_R

for the lowest mass, and the eigenvalue

m_N\approx fv_R

for the (super)massive neutrino state. Several variants of the basic LR models include the option of having Dirac neutrinos at the expense of enlarging the particle content. The introduction of two new single fermions and a new set of carefully chosen Higgs bosons, allows us to write the 4\times 4 mass matrix

\mathbb{M}=\begin{pmatrix} 0 & m_D & 0 & 0\\ m_D & 0 & 0 & fv_R\\ 0 & 0 & 0 & \mu\\ 0 & fv_R & \mu & 0\end{pmatrix}

This matrix leads to two different Dirac neutrinos, one heavy with mass m_N\sim fv_R and another lighter with mass m_\nu\sim m_D\mu/fv_R. This light four component spinor has the correct weak interaction properties to be identified as the neutrino. A variant of this model can be constructed by addition of singlet quarks and leptons. We can arrange these new particles in order that the Dirac mass of the neutrino vanishes at tree level and/or arises at the one-loop level via W_L-W_R boson mixing!

Left-Right symmetric(LR) models can be embedded in grand unification groups. The simplest GUT model that leads by successive stages of symmetry breaking to LR symmetric models at low energies is SO(10) GUT-based models. An example of LR embedding GUT supersymmetric theory can be even discussed in the context of (super)string-inspired models.

LOG#118. Basic Neutrinology(III).


Mass terms


Phenomenologically, lagrangian mass terms can be understood as terms describing “transitions” between right (R) and left (L) handed states in the electroweak sector. For a given minimal, Lorentz invariant set of 4 fields (\psi_L,\psi_R, \psi^c_L,\psi_R^c), we have the components of a generic Dirac spinor. Thus, the most general mass part of a (likely extended) electroweak massive lagrangian can be written as follows:


In terms of a “new” Majorana (real) field with \nu^c=\nu and N^c=N, we have



and then, the massive lagrangian becomes

\mathcal{L}_m=\begin{pmatrix}\bar{\nu} & \bar{N}\end{pmatrix}\mathbb{M}_{\nu,N}\begin{pmatrix}\nu\\ N\end{pmatrix}

where the neutrino mass matrix is defined to be

\mathbb{M}_{\nu,N}=\begin{pmatrix}m_T & m_D\\ m_D & m_S\end{pmatrix}

We can diagonalize this mass matrix and then we will find the physical particle content! It is given (in general) by two Majorana mass eigenstates: the inclusion of the Majorana mass splits the 4 degenerate states of the Dirac field into two non-degenerate Majorana pairs. If we assume that the states \nu, N are respectively “active” (i.e., they belong to some weak doublets) and sterile (weak singlets), then the terms corresponding to the Majorana masses m_T, m_S transform as weak triplets and singlets respectively. While the term corresponding to m_D is  an standard, weak singlet in most cases, Dirac mass term, its pressence shows to be essential in the next discussion. Indeed, this simple example can be easily generalized to three or more families, in which case the masses beocme matrices themselves. The complete full flavor mixing comes from any two different parts: the diagonalization of the charged lepton Yukawa couplings and that of the neutrino masses! Most of beyond Standard Model theories (specially those coming from GUTs) produce CKM-like leptonic mixing and this mixing is generally “arbitrary” with parameters only to be determined by the experiment. Only when you have an additional gauge symmetry (or some extra discrete symmetry), you can guess some of the mixing parameters from first principles. Therefore, the prediction of the neutrino oscillation/mixing parameters, as for the quark hierarchies and mixing, need further theoretical assumptions NOT included in the Standard Model. For instance, we could require that the \nu_\mu-\nu_\tau mixing were “maximal” or to impose some “permutation symmetry” and derive the neutrino oscillation parameters from “tribimaximal” or “trimaximal” mixing. However, currently, the symmetry behind the neutrino mass matrix or the quark mixing matrix (the CKM mass matrix) are completely unknown. We can feel and “smell” there are some patterns there (something that suggests a “new” approximate broken symmetry related to flavor) but there is no current accepted working model for the neutrino mass matrix (or its quark analogue, the CKM mass matrix).

The seesaw


When we diagonalize the above neutrino mass matrix, we can analyze different “limit” cases. In the case of a purely Dirac mass term, i.e., whenver m_T=m_S=0, then the \nu, N states are degenerate with mass m_D and a four component Dirac field can be “recovered” as \nu'=\nu+N, modulo some constant prefactor. It can be seen that, although violating individual lepton numbers, the Dirac mass term allows a conserve dlepton number L=L_\nu+L_N. This case in which the triplet and scalar masses are “tiny” or, equivalently, the case in which their Majorana mass “separation” is very small is sometimes called “pseudo-Dirac” case. In fact, it produces some interesting models both in Cosmology and particle physics. Inded, it could be possible that the 3 neutrino flavors we do know today were, in fact, neutrino (almost degenerated) triplets, i.e., every neutrino flavor could be formed by 3 very close Majorana states that we can not “resolve” using current technology.

In the general case, pure Majorana mass transition terms (m_S, m_T) arise in the lagrangian. Therefore, particle-antiparticle transitions violating the total lepton number by two units do appear (\Delta L=\pm 2). They can be understood as the creation or annihilation of two neutrinos, and thus, they allow the possibility of the existence of neutrinoless double beta decays! That is, only when the neutrino is a Majorana particle, the channel in which the total lepton number is violated opens.

When every mass term is allowed, there is an interesting case commonly referred as “the seesaw” limit. In this limit, taking the triplet mass to be zero and the singlet mass to be “huge” or “superheavy”, we deduce that

m_T\sim 1/m_S\sim 0 with m_D<<m_S (the “seesaw” limit).

In this seesaw limit, the neutrino mass matrix can be diagonalized and it provides two eigenvalues:

m_1\sim \dfrac{m_D^2}{m_S}<<m_D

m_2\sim m_S

Thus, the seesaw mechanism provide a way in which we obtain two VERY different mass eigenstates, i.e., two single particle states separated by a huge mass hierarchy! There is one (super)heavy neutrino (generally speaking, it corresponds to the right-handed neutrino) and a much lighter neutrino state, one that can be made relatively much lighter than a normal Dirac fermion mass. One fo the neutrino mass is “suppressed” and balanced up (hence the name “seesaw”) by the (super)heavy species. The seesaw mechanism is a “natural” way of generating two different (often VERY separated) mass scales!

The theory of the seesaw mechanism is very rich. I will not discuss its full potential here. There are 3 main types of seesaw mechanisms (generally named as type I, type II and type III) and some other less frequent variants and subvariants…It is an advanced topic for a whole future thread! 😉 However, I will draw you the 3 main Feynman graphs involved in these 3 main types of seesaw mechanisms:


GUTs and neutrino mass models


Any fully satisfactory model that generates neutrino masses must contain a natural mechanism which allows us to explain their samll value, relative to that of their charged partners. Given the latest experimental hints and results, it would also be possible that it will include any comprehensive explanation for light sterile neutrinos and large, nearl maximal, mixing. This last idea is due to some “anomalies” coming from some neutrino experiments (specially those coming from reactors and the celebrated LSND experiment).

Different models can be distinguished according to the new particle content and spectrum, or according to the energy scale hierarchy they produce. With an extended particle content, different options open: if we want to brak the lepton number ant to generate neutrino masses without introducing new (unobserved) fermions in the SM, we must do it by adding to the SM Higgs sector fields carrying lepton numbers. Thus, one can arrange them to break the lepton number explicitly or spontaneously through interactions with these fields. If you want, this is another reason why the Higgs field matters: it allows to introduce fields carrying lepton numbers without adding any extra fermion field! Likely, the most straightforward approach to generate neutrino masses is to introduce for each neutrino an additional weak neutral single (that can be identified with the right-handed neutrino we can not observed due to be “very massive” and/or uncharged under the SM gauge group). This last fact strongly favors seesaw-like models!

For instance, the above features happen in the framework of LR (Left-Right) symmetric models in Grand Unified Theories (GUTs). There, the origin of the SM parity violation (explicit in the electroweak and weak sectors) is due to the spontaneous symmetry breaking of a baryon-lepton symmetry, and it yields a B-L quantum number conservation/violation up to a degree that depends on the particular model. Thus, in SO(10) GUT, the Majorana neutral particle N enters in a natural way in order to complete the matter multiplet. Therefore, N should be a SU(3)\times SU(2)\times U(1) singlet, as we wished it to be.

If we use the energy scale as a guide where the new physics have relevant effects, unification (e.g., think about the previous SO(10) example) and the weak scale approach (radiative models and their effective theories) are usually distinguished and preferred form a pure QFT approach.

Despite the fact that the explanation of the known neutrino anomalies (the solar neutrino problem the first, but also the atmospheric neutrino flux and the reactor anomalies/neutrino beam anomalies) do not need or require the existence of an additional extra light/heavy sterile neutrino, some authors claim that they could exist after all. If every Marojana mass term is “small enough”, then active neutrinos can oscillate or mix into sterile (likely right-handed) fields/states. Light sterile neutrinos can appear in particularly special see-saw mechanisms if additional assumptions are considered (there, some models called “singular seesaw” models do exist as well). with some inevitable amount of “fine tuning”. The alternative to “fine tuning” would be seesaw-like suppression for sterile neutrinos involving new unknown (likely ultraweak or “dark”) interactions, i.e., family symmetries resulting in substantial field additions to the SM (some string theory models also suggest this possibility).

There is also weak scale models, i.e., radiative  generated mass models where the neutrino masses are zero at tree level and they constitute a very different type of models: they explain the smallness of the neutrino masses a priori for both active and sterile neutrinos. Loop corrections induce neutrino mass terms in these models. Thus, different mass scales are generated naturally by the different number of loops involved in the generation of each term. The actual implementation requires, however, the ad hoc (a posteriori) introduction of new Higgs particles with non-standard electroweak quantum numbers and lepton number violating couplings. This is the price we pay in an alternative approach.

The origin of the different Dirac and Majorana mass terms m_S,m_T, m_D appearing in the neutrino (seesaw like) neutrino mass matrix is usually understood by a dynamical mechanism where at some energy scale it happens “naturally” and/or where some symmetry principle is spontaneously broke and invoked. Firstly, we face with the Dirac mass term. In one special case, \nu_L and \nu_R are SU(2) doublets and singlets respectively. The mass term describes a \Delta I=1/2 transition and it is generate from the SU(2) breaking via a Yukawa coupling:

\mathcal{L}_{\mathcal{Y}}=h_i\begin{pmatrix} \bar{\nu}_i & \bar{l}_i\end{pmatrix}\begin{pmatrix}\phi^0\\ \phi^-\end{pmatrix}N_{R_i}+h.c.

Here, \phi^0, \phi^- are the components of certain Higgs doublet. The coefficients h_i are the Yukawa couplings. After symmetry breaking, m_D=h_iv/2, where v is the vacuum expectation value of the Higgs doublet. A Dirac mass term is qualitatively just like any other fermion mass, but that leads to the question of why it is so small in comparison with the rest of fermion masses: one would require h(\nu_e)<10^{-10} in order to have m(\nu_e)<10eV. In other words, h(\nu_e)/h(e)\sim 10^{-5} while for the hadronic sector we have h(up)/h(down)\sim \mathcal{O}(1). In principle, it could be that there is no reason beyond the fine tuning of the Yukawa couplings (via Higgs vacuum expectation values to different fields) but, as much as large hierarchies or dimensionless ratios appear, it demands “an explanation”.

In the case of the Majorana mass term, the m_S term will appear if N is a gauge singlet on general grounds. In this case, a renormalizable mass term with structure


is allowed by the SM gauge group. However, it would bot be consistent in general with unified symmetries or general GUTs. That is, a full SO(10), for instance, and some complicated mechanisms should be used to describe and explain the presence of this term. The m_S term is usually associated with the breaking of some larger symmetry group, and it is generally expected that its energy scale should be in a range covering from the few hundreds of GeVs in LR models to GUTscale energies, or about 10^{15}-10^{17} GeV.

When the m_T term is present, then \nu_L are active. That is, whenever \nu_L is active, there is a m_T term. It belongs to some gauge doublet and it sometimes introduce non-renormalizable interactions. That is the reason why generally speaking models with m_T=0 are “preferred” over this alternative. In this case, we have \Delta I=1 and m_T must be generated by either:

1) An elementary Higgs triplet.

2) An effective operator involving two Higgs doublets arranged to transform as a triplet.

In both cases, we can induce non-renormalizable interactions. In case 1), an elementary triplet m_T\sim h_Tv_T, where h_T is a Yukawa coupling and v_T the triplet v.e.v. The simplest realization is the so-called “old Gelmini-Roncadelli model”) and it is EXCLUDED by the LEP data on the Z-invisible width. This last result is due to the fact that the corresponding Majoron particle couples to the Z boson, and it increases significantly its width so we would have seen it at LEP. Some variants of this model involving the explicit lepton number violation or in which the Majoron is mainly a weak singlet (named invisible Majoron models) could still be possible, though, yet. In case 2), for an effective operator originated mass, one should expect m_T\sim 1/M_{NP}, where M_{NP} is the scale of new physics wich generates the operator. Let me remark that both cases can trigger non-renormalizability in the extended gauge theory, a property which some people finds “disturbing”.

Final remarks: If m_S\sim 1 TeV (typical in LR models), and with typical values of m_D, one would expect masses about 0.1eV, 10keV, 1MeV for the \nu_{e,\mu,\tau} weak eigenstates, respectively. GUT theories motivates a bigger gap between the intermediate electroweak scale and the GUT scale. The gap can be as large as 10^{12}-10^{16}GeV. In the lower end of this range, for m_S\sim 10^{12}GeV, we have some string-inspired models, GUT with multiple breaking stages and “mixed” models. At the upper end, for m_S\sim 10^{16} (named GUT seesaw, with large Higgs representations), one typically finds smaller masses for the neutrinos, about 10^{-11}, 10^{-7}, 10^{-2} eV respectively for the 3 neutrino flavors (electron, muon and tau). Somehow, this radical approach is more difficult to fit into the present known experimental facts, that they suggest a milielectronvolt neutrino mass as the lighter neutrino mass, up to 1eV (if you consider some experiments as hinting a sterile neutrino as “yet possible”). Thus, neutrinos are hinting to the existence of some intermediate pre-GUT or GUT-like unification energy scale. Where is it? We don’t know! There are many possible models and theories GUT-like. For instance, the next scheme is possible


Neutrinos and magnetic dipole moments

The magnetic dipole moment is another probe of possible new interactions and physics beyond the Standard Model. Majorana neutrinos have identically zero magnetic and electric dipole moments. Flavor transition magnetic moments are allowed however in general for both Dirac and Majorana neutrinos! Limits obtained from laboratory experiments (LEX) are of the order of a constant times 10^{-10}\mu_B, where \mu_B is the Bohr magneton. There are additional limits/bounds imposed by both stellar physics (or astrophysics) and cosmology in the range 10^{-11}-10^{-13}\mu_B. In the SM, the electroweak sector can be extended to allow for Dirac neutrino masses, so that the nuetrino magnetid ipole moment is nonzero and given by

\mu_\nu=\dfrac{3eG_Fm_\nu}{8\pi^2\sqrt{2}}=3\cdot 10^{-19}\left(\dfrac{m_\nu}{1eV}\right)\mu_B

The proportionality of \mu_\nu to the neutrino mass is due to the absence of an interaction with \nu_R in this Dirac extended SM. Then, only its Yukawa coupling appears, and hence, the neutrino mass. In LR symmetric theories (like the mentioned SO(10) theory), the \mu_\nu is proportional to the charged lepton mass. Based on general grounds, we find typical values about

\mu_\nu\sim 10^{-13}-10^{-14}\mu_B

These values are still too small to have odds of being measurable in current experiments or having practical astrophysical or cosmological consequences we could detect now. However, these magnetic dipole moments are important features of BSM models, so it is important to study them.

Magnetic moment interactions arise in ANY renormalizable gauge theory only as finite radiative corrections. The diagrams which generate a magnetic moment will also contribute to the neutrino mass once the external photon line is removed.In the absence of additional symmetries, a large magnetic moment is incompatible with a small neutrino mass. The way out to this NO-GO theorem suggested by Voloshin consists in defining a SU(2)_\nu symmetry acting on the flavor space (\nu, \nu^c), and then the magnetic moment term are singlets under this symmetry. In the limit of exact SU(2)_\nu symmetry, the neutrino mass is forbidden BUT the magnetic moment \mu_\nu is allowed. Diverse concrete models have been proposed where such extra symmetry is embedded into an extension of the SM (e.g., in LR models, with SUSY “horizontal” gauge symmetries, by Babu et al.).

What do you think? Some novel idea? Here you are a decision tree map (LOL):

NeutrinoMassModelsDecisionMapHowever, we are far, far away to understand the neutrino hidden higher secrets! Here you are a basic “road map” towards superbeams and neutrino factories, yet an intermediate step before the mythical muon collider (yes, USA likely WANTS that muon collider, :P)…

disclimitMay the neutrinos be with you!

PS: See you in my next neutrinology blog post!

LOG#117. Basic Neutrinology(II).


The current Standard Model of elementary particles and interactions supposes the existence of 3 neutrino species or flavors. They are neutral, upper components of “doublets” L_i with respect to the SU(2)_L group, the weak interaction group after the electroweak symmetry breaking, and we have:

L_i\equiv \begin{pmatrix}\nu_i\\ l_i\end{pmatrix} \forall i=(e,\mu,\tau)

These doublets have the 3rd component of the weak isospin I_{3W}=1/2 and they are assigned an unit of the global ith lepton number. Thus, we have electron, muon or tau lepton numbers. The 3 right-handed charged leptons have however no counterparts in the neutrino sector, and they transform as singlets with respect to the weak interaction. That is, there are no right-handed neutrinos in the SM, we have only left-handed neutrinos. Neutrinos are “vampires” and, at least at low energies (those we have explored till now), they have only one “mirror” face: the left-handed part of the helicities. No observed neutrino has shown to be right-handed.


Beyond mass and charge assignments and their oddities, in any other respect, neutrinos are very well behaved particles within the SM framework and some figures and facts are unambiguosly known about them. The LEP Z boson line-shape measurements imply tat there are only 3 ordinary/light (weakly interacting) neutrinos.

The Big Bang Nucleosynthesis (BBN) constrains the parameters of possible additional “sterile” neutrinos, non-weak interacting or those which interact and are produced only my mixing. All the existing data on the weak interaction processes and reactions in which neutrinos take part are perfectly described by the SM charged-current (CC) and neutral-current (NC) lagrangians:

\displaystyle{\mathcal{L}_{I}(CC)=-\dfrac{1}{\sqrt{2}}\sum_{i=e,\mu,\tau}\bar{\nu}_{L,i}\gamma_\alpha l_{Li}W^\alpha+h.c.}

\displaystyle{\mathcal{L}_{I}(NC)=-\dfrac{1}{2\cos\theta_W}\sum_{i=e,\mu,\tau}\bar{\nu}_{L,i}\gamma_\alpha l_{Li}Z^\alpha+h.c.}

and where W^\alpha, Z^\alpha are the neutral and charged massive vector bosons of the weak interaction. The CC and NC interaction lagrangians conserve 3 total additive quantum numbers: the lepton numbers L_{e}, L_\mu, L_\tau, while the structure of the CC interactions is what determine the notion of flavor neutrinos \nu_e, \nu_\mu, \nu_\tau.

There are no hints (yet) in favor of the violation of the conservation of these (global) lepton numbers in weak interactions and this fact provides very strong bound on brancing ratios of rare, lepton number violating reactions. For instance (even when the next data is not completely updated), we generally have (up to a 90% of confidence level, C.L.):

1. R(\mu\longrightarrow e\mu)<4.9\cdot 10^{-11}

2. R(\mu\longrightarrow 3e)<1.0\cdot 10^{-12}

3. R(\mu\longrightarrow e(2\gamma))<7.2\cdot 10^{-11}

4. R(\tau\longrightarrow e\gamma)<2.7\cdot 10^{-6}

5. R(\tau\longrightarrow \mu\gamma)<3.0\cdot 10^{-6}

6. R(\mu\longrightarrow 3e)< 2.9\cdot 10^{-6}

As we can observe, these lepton number violating reactions, if they exist, are very weird. From the theoretical viewpoint, in the minimal extension of the SM where the right-handed neutrinos are introduced and the neutrino gets a mass, the branching ratio of the \mu\longrightarrow e\gamma decay is given by (2 flavor mixing only is assumed):

R(\mu\longrightarrow e\gamma)=G_F\left(\dfrac{\sin 2\theta \Delta m_{12}^2}{2M_W^2}\right)^2

and where m_{1,2} are the neutrino masses, \Delta m_{12}^2 their squared mass difference, M_W is the W boson mass and \theta is the mixing angle of their respective neutrino flavors in the lepton sector. Using the experimental upper bound on the heaviest neutrino (believed to be \nu_\tau without loss of generality), we obtain that

R^{theo}\sim 10^{-18}

Thus, we get a value far from being measurable at present time as we can observe by direct comparison with the above experimental results!!!

In fact, the transition \mu\longrightarrow e\gamma and similar reactions are very sensitive to new physics, and particularly, to new particles NOT contained in the current description of the Standard Model. However, the R value is quite “model-dependent” and it could change by several orders of magnitude if we modify the neutrino sector introducing some extra number of “heavy”/”superheavy” neutrinos.

See you in another Neutrinology post! May the neutrinos be with you until then!

LOG#116. Basic Neutrinology(I).


This new post ignites a new thread.

Subject: the Science of Neutrinos. Something I usually call Neutrinology.  

I am sure you will enjoy it, since I will keep it elementary (even if I discuss some more advanced topics at some moments). Personally, I believe that the neutrinos are the coolest particles in the Standard Model, and their applications in Science (Physics and related areas) or even Technology in the future ( I will share my thoughts on this issue in a forthcoming post) will be even greater than those we have at current time.

Let me begin…

The existence of the phantasmagoric neutrinos ( light, electrically neutral and feebly -very weakly- interacting fermions) was first proposed by W. Pauli in 1930 to save the principle of energy conservation in the theory of nuclear beta decay. The idea was promptly adopted by the physics community but the detection of that particle remained elusive: how could we detect a particle that is electrically neutral and that interact very,very weakly with normal matter? In 1933, E. Fermi takes the neutrino hypothesis, gives the neutrino its name (meaning “little neutron”, since it was realized than neutrinos were not Chadwick’s neutrons) and builds his theory of beta decay and weak interactions. With respect to its mass, Pauli initially expected the mass of the neutrino to be small, but necessarily zero. Pauli believed (originally) that the neutrino should not be much more massive than the electron itself. In 1934, F. Perrin showed that its mass had to be less than that of the electron.

By the other hand, it was firstly proposed to detect neutrinos exploding nuclear bombs! However, it was only in 1956 that C. Cowan and F. Reines (in what today is known as the Reines-Cowan experiment) were able to detect and discover the neutrino (or more precisely, the antineutrino). In 1962, Leon M. Lederman, M. Schwartz, J. Steinberger and Danby et al. showed that more than one type of neutrino species \nu_e,\nu_\mu should exist by first detecting interactions of the muon neutrino. They won the Nobel Prize in 1988.

When we discovered the third lepton, the tau particle (or tauon), in 1975 at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, it too was expected to have an associated neutrino particle. The first evidence for this 3rd neutrino “flavor” came from the observation of missing energy and momentum in tau decays. These decays were analogue to the beta decay behaviour leading to the discovery of the neutrino particle.

In 1989, the study of the Z boson lifetime allows us to show with great experimental confidence that only 3 light neutrino species (or flavors) do exist. In 2000, the first detection of tau neutrino (\nu_\tau in addition to \nu_e,\nu_\mu) interactions was announced by the DONUT collaboration at Fermilab, making it the latest particle of the Standard Model to have been discovered until the recent Higgs particle discovery (circa 2012, about one year ago).

In 1998, research results at the Super-Kamiokande neutrino detector in Japan (and later, independently, from SNO, Canada) determined for the first time that neutrinos do indeed experiment “neutrino oscillations” (I usually call NOCILLA, or NO for short, this phenomenon), i.e., neutrinos flavor “oscillate” and change their flavor when they travel  “short/long” distances. SNO and Super-Kamiokande tested and confirmed this hypothesis using “solar neutrinos”. this (quantum) phenomenon implies that:

1st. Neutrinos do have a mass. If they were massless, they could not oscillate. Then, the old debate of massless vs. massive neutrinos was finally ended.


2nd. The solar neutrino problem is solved. Some solar neutrinos scape to the detection in Super-Kamiokande and SNO, since they could not detect all the neutrino species. It also solved the old issue of “solar neutrinos”. The flux of (detected) solar neutrinos was lesser than expected (generally speaking by a factor 2). The neutrino oscillation hypothesis solved it since it was imply the fact that some neutrinos have been “transformed” into a type we can not detect.


3rd. New physics does exist. There is new physics at some energy scale beyond the electroweak scale (the electroweak symmetry breaking and typical energy scale is about 100GeV). The SM is not complete. The SM does (indeed) “predict” that the neutrinos are massless. Or, at least, it can be made simpler if you make neutrinos to be massless neutrinos described by Weyl spinors. It shows that, after the discovery of neutrino oscillations, it is not the case. Neutrinos are massive particles. However, they could be Dirac spinors (as all the known spinors in the Standard Model, SM) or they could also be Majorana particles, neutral fermions described by “Majorana” spinors and that makes them to be their own antiparticles! Dirac particles are different to their antiparticles. Majorana particles ARE the same that their own antiparticles.


In the period 2001-2005, neutrino oscillations (NO)/neutrino mixing phenomena(NEMIX) were observed for the first time at a reactor experiment (this type of experiment are usually referred as short baseline experiment in the neutrino community) called KamLAND. They give a good estimate (by the first time) of the difference in the squares of the neutrino masses. In May 2010, it was reported that physicists from CERN and the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics, in Gran Sasso National Laboratory, had observed for the first time a transformation between neutrino flavors during an accelerator experiment (also called neutrino beam experiment, a class of neutrino experiment belonging to “long range” or “long” baseline experiments with neutrino particles). It was a new solid evidence that at least one neutrino species or flavor does have mass. In 2012, the Daya Bay Reactor experiment in China, and later RENO in South Korea measured the so called \theta_{13} mixing angle, the last neutrino mixing angle remained to be measured from the neutrino mass matrix. It showed to be larger than expected and it was consistent with earlier, but less significant results by the experiments T2K (another neutrino beam experiment), MINOS (other neutrino beam experiment) and Double Chooz (a reactor neutrino experiment).

With the known value of \theta_{13} there are some probabilities that the NO\nu A experiment at USA can find the neutrino mass hierarchy. In fact, beyond to determine the spinorial character (Dirac or Majorana) of the neutrino particles, and to determine their masses (yeah, we have not been able to “weight” the neutrinos, but we are close to it: they are the only particle in the SM with no “precise” value of mass), the remaining problem with neutrinos is to determine what kind of spectrum they have and to measure the so called CP violating processes. There are generally 3 types of neutrino spectra usually discussed in the literature:

A) Normal Hierarchy (NH): m_1<<m_2<<m_3. This spectrum follows the same pattern in the observed charged leptons, i.e., m(e)<<m(\mu)<<m(\tau). The electron is about 0.511MeV, muon is about 106 MeV and the tau particle is 1777MeV.

B) Inverted Hierarchy (IH): m_1<<m_2\sim m_3. This spectrum follows a pattern similar to the electron shells in atoms. Every “new” shell is closer in energy (“mass”) to the previous “level”.

C) Quasidegenerated (or degenerated) hierarchy/spectrum (QD): m_1\sim m_2\sim m_3.


While the above experiments show that neutrinos do have mass, the absolute neutrino mass scale is still not known. There are reasons to believe that its mass scale is in the range of some milielectron-volts (meV) up to the electron-volt scale (eV) if some extra neutrino degree of freedom (sterile neutrinos) do appear. In fact, the Neutrino OScillation EXperiments (NOSEX) are sensitive only to the difference in the square of the neutrino masses. There are some strongest upper limits on the masses of neutrinos that come from Cosmology:

1) The Big Bang model states that there is a fixed ratio between the number of neutrino species and the number of photons in the cosmic microwave background (CMB). If the total energy of all the neutrino species exceeded an upper bound about

m_\nu\leq 50eV

per neutrino, then, there would be so much mass in the Universe that it would collapse. It does not (apparently) happen.

2) Cosmological data, such as the cosmic microwave background radiation, the galaxy surveys, or the technique of the Lyman-alpha forest indicate that the sum of the neutrino masses should be less than 0.3 eV (if we don’t include sterile neutrinos, new neutrino species uncharged under the SM gauge group, that could increase that upper bound a little bit).

3) Some early measurements coming from lensing data of a galaxy cluster were analyzed in 2009. They suggest that the neutrino mass upper bound is about 1.5eV. This result is compatible with all the above results.

Today, some measurements in controlled experiments have given us some data about the squared mass differences (from both, solar neutrinos, atmospheric neutrinos produced by cosmic rays and accelerator/reactor experiments):

1) From KamLAND (2005), we get

\Delta m_{21}^2=0\mbox{.}000079eV^2

2) From MINOS (2006), we get

\Delta m_{32}^2=0\mbox{.}0027eV^2

There are some increasing efforts to directly determine the absolute neutrino mass scale in different laboratory experiments (LEX), mainly:

1) Nuclear beta decay (KATRIN, MARE,…).

2) Neutrinoless double beta decay (e.g., GERDA; CUORE, Cuoricino, NEMO3,…). If the neutrino is a Majorana particle, a new kind of beta decay becomes possible: the double beta decay without neutrinos (i.e., two electrons emitted and no neutrino after this kind of decay).

Neutrinos have a unique place among all the SM elementary particles. Their role in the cosmic evolution and the fundamental asymmetries in the SM (like CP violating reactions, or the C, T, and P single violations) make them the most fascinating and interesting particle that we know today (well, maybe, today, the Higgs particle is also as mysterious as the neutrino itself). We believe that neutrinos play an important role in Beyond Standard Model (BSM) Physics. Specially, I would like to highlight two aspects:

1) Baryogenesis from leptogenesis. Neutrinos can allow us to understand how could the Universe end in such an state that it contains (essentially) baryons and no antibaryons (i.e., the apparent matter-antimatter asymmetry of the Universe can be “explained”, with some unsolved problems we have not completely understood, if massive neutrinos are present).

2) Asymmetric mass generation mechanisms or the seesaw. Neutrinos allow us to build an asymmetric mass mechanism known as “seesaw” that makes “some neutrino species/states” very light and other states become “superheavy”. This mechanism is unique and, from some  non-subjective viewpoint, “simple”.

After nearly a century, the question of the neutrino mass and its origin is still an open question and a hot topic in high energy physics, particle physics, astrophysics, cosmology and theoretical physics in general.

If we want to understand the fermion masses, a detailed determination of the neutrino mass is necessary. The question why the neutrino masses are much smaller than their charged partners could be important! The little hierarchy problem is the problem of why the neutrino mass scale is smaller than the other fermionic masses and the electroweak scale. Moreover, neutrinos are a powerful probe of new physics at scales larger than the electroweak scale. Why? It is simple. (Massive) Neutrinos only interact under weak interactions and gravity! At least from the SM perspective, neutrinos are uncharged under electromagnetism or the color group, so they can only interact via intermediate weak bosons AND gravity (via the undiscovered gravitons!).

If neutrino are massive particles, as they show to be with the neutrino oscillation phenomena, the superposition postulates of quantum theory state that neutrinos, particles with identical quantum numbers, could oscillate in flavor space since they are electrically neutral particles. If the absolute difference of masses among them is small, then these oscillations or neutrino (flavor) mixing could have important phenomenological consequences in Astrophysics or Cosmology. Furthermore, neutrinos are basic ingredients of these two fields (Astrophysics and Cosmology). There may be a hot dark matter component (HDM) in the Universe: simulations of structure formation fit the observations only when some significant quantity of HDM is included. If so, neutrinos would be there, at least by weight, and they would be one of the most important ingredients in the composition of the Universe.


Regardless the issue of mass and neutrino oscillations/mixing, astrophysical interests in the neutrino interactions and their properties arise from the fact that it is produced in high temperature/high density environment, such as collapsing stars and/or supernovae or related physical processes. Neutrino physics dominates the physics of those astrophysical objects. Indeed, the neutrino interactions with matter is so weak, that it passes generally unnoticed and travels freely through any ordinary matter existing in the Universe. Thus, neutrinos can travel millions of light years before they interact (in general) with some piece of matter! Neutrinos are a very efficient carrier of energy drain from optically thick objects and they can serve as very good probes for studying the interior of such objects. Neutrino astronomy is just being born in recent years. IceCube and future neutrino “telescopes” will be able to see the Universe in a range of wavelengths and frequencies we have not ever seen till now. Electromagnetic radiation becomes “opaque” at some very high energies that neutrinos are likely been able to explore! Isn’t it wonderful? Neutrinos are high energy “telescopes”!

By the other hand, the solar neutrino flux is, together with heliosysmology and the field of geoneutrinos (neutrinos coming from the inner shells of Earth), some of the known probes of solar core and the Earth core. A similar statement applies to objects like type-II supernovae. Indeed, the most interesting questions around supernovae and the explosion dynamics itself with the shock revival (and the synthesis of the heaviest elements by the so-called r-processes) could be positively affected by changes in the observed neutrino fluxes (via some processes called resonant conversion, and active-sterile conversions).

Finally, ultra high energy neutrinos are likely to be useful probes of diverse distant astrophysical objects. Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) should be copious emitters of neutrinos, providing detectable point sources and and observable “diffuse” background which is larger in fact that the atmospheric neutrino background in the very high energy range. Relic cosmic neutrinos, their thermal background, known as the cosmic neutrino background, and their detection about 1.9K are one of the most important lacking missing pieces in the Standard Cosmological Model (LCDM).

Do you understand why neutrinos are my favorite particles? I will devote this basic thread to them. I will make some advanced topics in the future. I promise.

May the Neutrinos be with you!

LOG#115. Bohr’s legacy (III).

Dedicated to Niels Bohr

and his atomic model


3rd part:

From gravatoms to dark matter



Imagine a proton an an electron were bound together in a hydrogen atom by gravitational forces and not by electric forces. We have two interesting problems to solve here:

1st. Find the formula for the spectrum (energy levels) of such a gravitational atom (or gravatom), and the radius of the ground state for the lowest level in this gravitational Bohr atom/gravatom.

2nd. Find the numerical value of the Bohr radius for the gravitational atom, the “rydberg”, and the “largest” energy separation between the energy levels found in the previous calculation.

We will take the values of the following fundamental constants:

\hbar=1\mbox{.}06\cdot 10^{-34}Js, the reduced Planck constant.

m_p=1\mbox{.}67\cdot 10^{-27}kg, the proton mass.

m_e=9\mbox{.}11\cdot 10^{-31}kg, the electron mass.

G_N=6\mbox{.}67\cdot 10^{-11}Nm^2/kg^2, the gravitational Newton constant.

Let R be the radius of any electron orbit. The gravitational force between the electron and the proton is equal to:

(1) F_g=G_N\dfrac{m_pm_e}{R^2}

The centripetal force is necessary to keep the electron in any circular orbit. According to the gravatom hypothesis, it yields the value of the gravitational force (the electric force is neglected):

(2) F_c=\dfrac{mv^2}{R}

(3) F_c=F_g\leftrightarrow \boxed{\dfrac{mv^2}{R}=G_N\dfrac{m_pm_e}{R^2}}

Using the hypothesis of the Bohr atomic model in this point, i.e., that “the allowed orbits are those for whihc the electron’s orbital angular momentum about the nucleus is an integral multiple of \hbar“, we get

(4) L=m_evR=n\hbar \forall n=1,2,\ldots,\infty


(5) v=\dfrac{n\hbar}{m_eR} and v^2=\dfrac{n^2\hbar^2}{m_e^2R^2}

From (3), we obtain

(6) \boxed{v^2=G_N\dfrac{m_p}{R}}

Comparing (5) with (6), we deduce that

(7) G_N\dfrac{m_p}{R}=\dfrac{n^2\hbar^2}{m_e^2R^2}

and thus

(8) \boxed{R_n=R(n)=n^2\dfrac{\hbar^2}{G_Nm_pm_e^2}}

This is the gravatom equivalent of Bohr radius in the common Bohr model for the hydrogen atom. To get the spectrum, we recall that total energy is the sum of kinetic and potential energy:


Using the value we obtained in (5), by direct substitution, we have

(9) E=\dfrac{1}{2}m_ev^2-G_N\dfrac{m_pm_e}{R}=-G_N\dfrac{m_pm_e}{2R}

and then

(10) E=-\dfrac{G_Nm_em_p}{2}\dfrac{G_Nm_pm_e^2}{n^2\hbar^2}

and so the spectrum of this gravatom is given by

(11) \boxed{E_n=E(n)=-G_N^2\dfrac{m_p^2m_e^3}{2n^2\hbar^2}}

For n=1 (the ground state), we have the analogue of the Bohr radius in the gravatom to be:

R_1=\dfrac{\hbar^2}{G_Nm_pm_e^2}=1\mbox{.}20\cdot 10^{29}m

For comparison, the radius of the known Universe is about R_U=4\mbox{.}4\cdot 10^{26}m. Therefore, R(gravatom)>R_U!!!!!! R_1 is very huge because gravitational forces are much much weaker than electrostatic forces! Moreover, the energy in the ground state n=1 for this gravatom is:

E_1=-G_N^2\dfrac{m_p^2m_e^2}{2\hbar^2}=-4\mbox{.}23\cdot 10^{-97}J

The energy separation between this and the next gravitational level would be about 1-1/4=3/4 this quantity in absolute value, i.e.,

\Delta E=\vert E_2-E_1\vert =3\mbox{.}18\cdot 10^{-97}J=1\mbox{.}99\cdot 10^{-78}eV

This really tiny energy separation is beyond any current possible measurement. Therefore, we can not measure energy splittings in “gravatoms” with known techniques. Of course, gravatoms are a “toy-model” or hypothetical systems (bubble Universes?).

Remark (I): The quantization of angular momentum provided the above gravatom spectrum. It is likely that a full Quantum Gravity theory provides additional corrections to the quantum potential, just in the same way that QED introduces logarithmic (vacuum polarization) corrections and others (due to relativity or additional quantum effects).

Remark (II): Variations in the above quantization rules can modify the spectrum.

Remark (III): In theories with extra dimensions, G_N is changed by a higher value G_N^{eff} as a function of the compactification radius. So, the effect of large enough extra dimensions could be noticed as “dark matter” if it is “big enough”. Can you estimate how large could the compactification radius be in such a way that the separation between n=1 and n=2 for the gravatom could be measured with current technology? Hint: you need to know what is the tiniest energy separation we can measure with current experimental devices.

Remark (IV): In  Verlinde’s entropic approach to gravity, extra corrections arise due to the change of the functional entropy we choose. It can be  due to extra dimensions and the (stringy) Generalized Uncertainty Principle as well.

Gravatoms and Dark Matter: a missing link

I will end this thread of 3 posts devoted to Bohr’s centenary model to recall a connection between atomic physics and the famous Dark Matter problem! The calculations I performed above (and which anyone with a solid, yet elementary, ground knowledge in physics can do) reveals a surprising link between microscopic gravity and the dark matter problem. I mean, the problem of gravatoms can be matched to the problem of dark matter if we substitute the proton mass by the mass of a galaxy! It is not an unlikely option that the whole Dark Matter problem shows to be related to a right infrared/long scale modified gravitational theory induced by quantum gravity. Of course, this claim is quite an statement! I work on this path since months ago…Even when MOND (MOdified Newtonian Dynamics) or MOG (MOdified Gravity) have been seen as controversial since Milgrom’s and Moffat’s pioneer works, I believe it is yet to come its “to be or not to be” biggest test. Yes, even when some measurements like the Bullet Cluster observations and current simulations of galaxy formation requires a component of dark matter, I firmly believe (similarly, I think, to V. Rubin’s opinion) that if the current and the next generation of experiments trying to discover the “dark matter particle/family of particles” fails, we should take this option more seriously than some people are able to accept at current time.

May the Bohr model and gravatoms be with you!