LOG#124. Basic Neutrinology(IX).

In supersymmetric LR models, inflation, baryogenesis (and/or leptogenesis) and neutrino oscillations can be closely related to each other. Baryosynthesis in GUTs is, in general, inconsistent with inflationary scenarios. The exponential expansion during the inflationary phase will wash out any baryon asymmetry generated previously by any GUT scale in your theory. One argument against this feature is the next idea: you can indeed generate the baryon or lepton asymmetry during the process of reheating at the end of inflation. This is a quite non-trivial mechanism. In this case, the physics of the “fundamental” scalar field that drives inflation, the so-called inflaton, would have to violate the CP symmetry, just as we know that weak interactions do! The challenge of any baryosynthesis model is to predict the observed asymmetry. It is generally written as a baryon to photon (in fact, a number of entropy) ratio. Tha baryon asymmetry is defined as

\dfrac{n_B}{s}\equiv \dfrac{(n_b-n_{\bar{b}})}{s}

At present time, there is only matter and only a very tiny (if any) amount of antimatter, and then n_{\bar{b}}\sim 0. The entropy density s is completely dominated by the contribution of relativistic particles so it is proportional to the photon number density. This number is calculated from CMBR measurements, and it shows to be about s=7.05n_\gamma. Thus,

\dfrac{n_B}{s}\propto \dfrac{n_b}{n_\gamma}

From BBN, we know that

\dfrac{n_B}{n_\gamma}=(5.1\pm 0.3)\cdot 10^{-10}


\dfrac{n_B}{s}=(7.2\pm 0.4)\cdot 10^{-11}

This value allows to obtain the observed lepton asymmetry ratio with analogue reasoning.

By the other hand, it has been shown that the “hybrid inflation” scenarios can be successfully realized in certain SUSY LR models with gauge groups

G_{SUSY}\supset G_{PS}=SU(4)_c\times SU(2)_L\times SU(2)_R

after SUSY symmetry breaking. This group is sometimes called the Pati-Salam group. The inflaton sector of this model is formed by two complex scalar fields H,\theta. At the end of the inflation do oscillate close to the SUSY minimum and respectively, they decay into a part of right-handed sneutrinos \nu_i^c and neutrinos. Moreover, a primordial lepton asymmetry is generated by the decay of the superfield \nu_2^c emerging as the decay product of the inflaton field. The superfield \nu_2^c also decays into electroweak Higgs particles and (anti)lepton superfields. This lepton asymmetry is partially converted into baryon asymmetry by some non-perturbative sphalerons!

Remark: (Sphalerons). From the wikipedia entry we read that a sphaleron (Greek: σφαλερός “weak, dangerous”) is a static (time independent) solution to the electroweak field equations of the SM of particle physics, and it is involved in processes that violate baryon and lepton number.Such processes cannot be represented by Feynman graphs, and are therefore called non-perturbative effects in the electroweak theory (untested prediction right now). Geometrically, a sphaleron is simply a saddle point of the electroweak potential energy (in the infinite dimensional field space), much like the saddle point  of the surface z(x,y)=x^2-y^2 in three dimensional analytic geometry. In the standard model, processes violating baryon number convert three baryons to three antileptons, and related processes. This violates conservation of baryon number and lepton number, but the difference B-L is conserved. In fact, a sphaleron may convert baryons to anti-leptons and anti-baryons to leptons, and hence a quark may be converted to 2 anti-quarks and an anti-lepton, and an anti-quark may be converted to 2 quarks and a lepton. A sphaleron is similar to the midpoint(\tau=0) of the instanton , so it is non-perturbative . This means that under normal conditions sphalerons are unobservably rare. However, they would have been more common at the higher temperatures of the early Universe.

The resulting lepton asymmetry can be written as a function of a number of parameters among them the neutrino masses and the mixing angles, and finally, this result can be compared with the observational constraints above in baryon asymmetry. However, this topic is highly non-trivial. It is not trivial that solutions satisfying the constraints above and other physical requirements can be found with natural values of the model parameters. In particular, it is shown that the value of the neutrino masses and the neutrino mixing angles which predict sensible values for the baryon or lepton asymmetry turn out to be also consistent with values require to solve the solar neutrino problem we have mentioned in this thread.

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#109. Basic Cosmology (IV).

Today, a new post in this fascinating Cosmology thread…


The Big Bang Nucleosynthesis in a nutshell

When the Universe was young, about T\sim 1MeV, the following events happen

1st. Some particles remained in thermodynamical equilibrium with the primordial plasma (photons, positrons and electrons, i.e., \gamma , e^+, e^-).

2nd. Some relativistic particles decoupled, the neutrinos! And the neutrinos are a very important particle there (the \nu “power” is even more mysterious since the discovery of the neutrino flavor oscillations).

3rd. Some non relativistic particles, the baryons, experienced a strong and subtle asymmetry. Even if we do not understand the physics behind this initial baryon asymmetry, it is important to explain the current Universe. The initial baryon asymmetry is estimated to be

\dfrac{n_b-n_{\bar{b}}}{s}\sim 10^{10}

At T\sim 1MeV, the baryon number was very large compared with the number of antibaryons. The reason or explanation of this fact is not well understood, but there are some interesting ideas for this asymmetric baryogenesis coming from leptogenesis. I will not discuss this fascinating topic today. Moreover, the fraction or ratio between the baryon density and the photon density is known to be the quantity

\eta_b\equiv \dfrac{n_b}{n_\gamma}\approx 5\mbox{.}5\cdot 10^{-10}\left(\dfrac{\Omega_b h^2}{0\mbox{.}020}\right)

In that moment, the question is: how the baryons end up? The answer is pretty simple. There are two main ideas:

1) The thermal equilibrium is kept thorugh out the whole phase in the early Universe. It means that the nuclear state will be the one with the lowest energy per baryon. That is, the most stable nucleus is iron (Fe), but, in fact,  most of the baryons end up in hydrogen (H) or Helium (He).

2) Simple nucleosynthesis is based on 2 elementary ideas and simplifications. Firstly, no element heavier than helium ^4He are produced at high ratios. Therefore, this means that protons(p), neutrons(n), the deuterium(D), the tritium (T), Helium-3 (^3He) and Helium-4 (^4He) are the main subproducts of Big Bang Nucleosynthesis in this standard scenario. Sedondly, until the Universe froze below T=0\mbox{.}1MeV, no light nuclei could form and there were only a “primordial soup” made of protons and neutrons. The neutron to proton ratio n/p IS an input for the synthesis of D, T, ^3He, and ^4He. Indeed, the 0.1 MeV temperature is relatively low considering the typical nuclear binding energy, about some MeV’s. We could have some quantities of “heavy” elements, but this effect is small, at the level of \eta_b\approx 10^{-9}, i.e., the effect of large number of photons compared to the number of baryons is comparable to the number of baryons and heavy elements beyond helium isotopes. We can loot at this effec in the deuterium (D) production:

n+p\longrightarrow D+\gamma

where the reaction is taken in the thermal equilibrium and n_\gamma=n_\gamma^0. In this equilibrium, we get

\dfrac{n_p}{n_nn_p}=\dfrac{n_D^0}{n_n^0n_p^0}=\dfrac{3}{4}\left(\dfrac{2\pi m_D}{m_nm_pT}\right)^{3/2}e^{(m_n+m_p-m_D)/T}=\dfrac{3}{4}\left(\dfrac{4\pi}{m_pT}\right)^{3/2}e^{B_p/T}

and where m_D\approx 2m_p, m_n\approx m_p and B_p is the binding energy of deuterium (D). Indeed, we get n_p\sim n_n\sim n_b=\eta_bn_\gamma and so n_\gamma\sim T^3. Moreover we also get

\dfrac{n_D}{n_b}\sim \eta_b \left(\dfrac{T}{m_p}\right)^{3/2}e^{B_p/T}

and the exponential “compensates” \eta_b and T, since the smal factor \eta_b must be chosen to be smaller than the binding energy to temperature ratio B_p/T.

By the other hand, the nuetron abundance can be also estimated. From a simple proton-neutron conversion, we obtain

p+e^- \leftrightarrow n+\nu_e

due to the weak interaction! The proton/neutron equilibrium ratio for temperatures greater than 1MeV becomes

\dfrac{n_p^0}{n_n^0}=\dfrac{e^{-m_p/T}\int dpp^2e^{-p^2/2m_pT}}{e^{-m_nT}\int dpp^2e^{-p^2/2m_nT}}=e^{Q/T}

where Q=m_n-m_p=1\mbox{.}293MeV. In fact, the exponential will not be maintained below T\approx 1 MeV and we define the neutron fraction as follows. Firstly


In equilibrium, this becomes

X_n (eq)=\dfrac{1}{1+n_p^0/n_n^0}

Boltzmann equation for the process n+\nu_e\leftrightarrow p+e^- can be easily derived

a^{-3}\dfrac{d( n_na^3)}{dt}=n_n^0n_\nu^0\langle \sigma v\rangle \left( \dfrac{n_pn_e}{n_p^0n_e^0}-\dfrac{n_nn_\nu}{n_n^0n_\nu^0}\right)=n_\nu^0\langle \sigma v\rangle \left(\dfrac{n_pn_n^0}{n_p^0}-n_n\right)

and where


Therefore, we obtain


and from the LHS, we calculate


By the other hand, from the RHS

n_\nu^0\langle \sigma v\rangle \left[(n_n+n_p)(1-X_n)e^{-Q/T}-(n_n+n_p)X_n\right]

Thus, \Gamma_{np}\longrightarrow \lambda_{np} implies that


If we change the variable t\longrightarrow x=Q/T, then we write








and \tau_n is the neutron lifetime, i.e. \tau_n\approx 886\mbox{.7}s

The numerical integration of these equations provides the following qualitative sketch for X_n:

OutOfEqXcompleteAt T below 0.1MeV, the neutron decays n\longrightarrow p+e^-+\nu_e via weak interaction. It yields

X_ne^{-t/\tau_n} and $latex X_n(T_{BBN})=0\mbox{.}15\times 0\mbox{.74}=0\mbox{.}11

such as the deuterium production is done through the processes

n+p\longrightarrow D+\gamma

and it started at about T\sim 0\mbox{.}07MeV and


The light element abundances

A good approximation is to consider that light element production happens instantaneously at T=T_{BBN}. Of course, the issue is…How could we determine that temperature? If we measure the abundance of deuterium abundance today, and the baryon abundance today (i.e., if we know their current densities), we can use the cosmological equations to deduce the ratio

\dfrac{n_D}{n_b}\approx \eta_b\left(\dfrac{T}{M_p}\right)^{3/2}e^{B_D/T}\sim 1

Then, we obtain from these equations and the measured densities that T_{BBN}\approx 0\mbox{.}07MeV\sim 0\mbox{.}1MeV

Moreover, since B(He)>B_D, it implies that helium-4 (^4He) production is favoured by BBN! It means that all neutron are processed inside helium-4 or hydrogen. In fact, the helium-4 abundance is known to be

X_4=\dfrac{4n(^4He)}{n_b}=2X_n(T_{BBN})\approx 0\mbox{.}22

We can compare this with an exact solution for the “yield” Y_p=0\mbox{.}2262+0\mbox{.}0135\ln (\eta_b (10^{-10}))

The observed helium-4 abundance is in good agreement with the theoretical expectations from the Standard Cosmological Model! What an awesome hit! We can also compare this with the primordial helium abundances from cosmological observations

0\mbox{.}22\sim 0\mbox{.}25

Thus, we have learned that the deuterium abundance IS a powerful probe of the baryon density!!!!

Remark: Nowadays, there is a problem with the lithium-7 abundances in stars. The origin of the discrepancy is not known, as far as I know. Then, the primordial lithium abundance is a controversial topic in modern Cosmology, so we understand BBN only as an overall picture, and some details need to be improved in the next years.