# LOG#127. Basic Neutrinology(XII).

**Posted:**2013/07/22

**Filed under:**Basic Neutrinology, Physmatics |

**Tags:**electron density, mass eigenstates, matter density, MSW effect, neutrino mixing, neutrino oscillations, neutrino oscillations in matter, neutrino oscillatrions in vacuum, neutrino refraction, neutrinology, refraction, resonance, weak eigenstates Leave a comment

When neutrinos pass through matter or they propagate in a medium (not in the vacuum), a subtle and potentially important effect occurs. This is called the MSW effect (Mikheyev-Smirnov-Wolfenstein effect). It is pretty similar to a refraction of light in a medium, but now it happens that the particle (wave) propagating are not electromagnetic waves (photons) but neutrinos! In fact, the MSW effect consists in two different effects:

1st. A “resonance” enhancement of the neutrino oscillation pattern.

2nd. An adiabatic (i.e. slow) or partially adiabatic neutrino conversion (mixing).

In the presence of matter, the neutrino experiences scattering and absorption. This last phenomenon is always negligible (or almost in most cases). At very low energies, coherent elastic forward scattering is the most important process. Similarly to optics, the net effect is the appearance of a phase difference, a refractive index or, equivalently, a neutrino effective mass.

The neutrino effective mass can cause an important change in the neutrino oscillation pattern, depending on the densities and composition of the medium. It also depends on the nature of the neutrino (its energy, its type and its oscillation length). In the neutrino case, the medium is “flavor-dispersive”: the matter is usually non-symmetric with respect to the lepton numbers! Then, the effective neutrino mass is different for the different weak eigenstates!

I will try to explain it as simple as possible here. For instance, take the solar electron plasma. The electrons in the solar medium have charged current interactions with but not with . Thus, the resulting interaction energy is given by a interaction hamiltonian

(1)

where the numerical prefactor is conventional, is the Fermi constant and is the electron density. The corresponding neutral current interactions are identical fo al the neutrino species and, therefore, we have no net effect on their propagation. Hypothetical sterile neutrinos would have no interaction at all either. The effective global hamiltonian in flacor space is now the sum of two terms, the vacuum hamiltonian and the interaction part. We can write them together

(2)

The consequence of this new effective hamiltonian is that the oscillation probabilities of the neutrino in matter can be largely increased due to a resonance with matter. In matter, for the simplest case with 2 flavors and 2 dimensions, we can define an effective oscillation/mixing angle as

(3)

The presence of the term proportional to the electron density can produce “a resonance” nullifying the denominator. there is a critical density such as

(3)

for which the matter mixing angle becomes maximal and , irrespectively of the value of the mixing angle in vacuum . The probability that oscillates or mixes into a weak eigenstate after traveling a distance in this medium is give by the vacuum oscillation formula modified as follows:

1st.

2nd. The kinematical factor differs by the replacement of with . Hence, it follows that, at the critical density, we have the oscillation probability in matter (2 flavor and 2 dimensions):

(4)

This equation tells us that we can get a full conversion of electron neutrino weak eigenstates into muon weak eigenstates, provided that the length and energy of the neutrino satisfy the condition

There is a second interesting limit that is mentioned often. This limit happens whenever the electron density is so large such that , or equivalently, . In this (dense matter) limit, there are NO oscillation in matter (they are “density suppresed”) because vanishes and we have

Therefore, the lesson here is that a big density can spoil the phenomenon of neutrino oscillations!

In summary, we have learned here that:

1st. There are neutrino oscillations “triggered” by matter. Matter can enhance or enlarge neutrino mixing by “resonance”.

2nd. A high enough matter density can spoil the neutrino mixing (the complementary effect to the previous one).

The MSW effect is particularly important in the field of geoneutrinos and when the neutrinos pass through the Earth core or mantle, as much as it also matters inside the stars or in collapsing stars that will become into supernovae. The flavor of neutrino states follows changes in the matter density!

See you in my next neutrinological post!

# LOG#126. Basic Neutrinology(XI).

**Posted:**2013/07/22

**Filed under:**Basic Neutrinology, Physmatics, The Standard Model: Basics |

**Tags:**IceCube, LBE, long baseline experiments, neutrino beam experiments, neutrino masses and lepton asymmetry, neutrino mixing, neutrino oscillation experiments, neutrino oscillations, neutrino oscillations in matter, neutrino oscillations in vacuum, neutrino telescopes, neutrinology, NOCILLA, NOSEX, reactor experiments, right-handed neutrinos, SBE, short baseline experiments, sterile neutrinos Leave a comment

Why is the case of massive neutrinos so relevant in contemporary physics? The full answer to this question would be very long. In fact, I am making this long thread about neutrinology in order you understand it a little bit. If neutrinos do have nonzero masses, then, due to the basic postulates of the quantum theory there will be in a “linear combination” or “mixing” among all the possible “states”. It also happens with quarks! This mixing will be observable even at macroscopic distances from the production point or source and it has very important practical consequences ONLY if the difference of the neutrino masses squared are very small. Mathematically speaking . Typically, , but some “subtle details” can increae this upper bound up to the keV scale (in the case of sterile or right-handed neutrinos, undetected till now).

In the presence of neutrino masses, the so-called “weak eigenstates” are different to “mass eigenstates”. There is a “transformation” or “mixing”/”oscillation” between them. This phenomenon is described by some unitary matrix U. The idea is:

If neutrinos can only be created and detected as a result of weak processes, at origin (or any arbitrary point) we have a weak eigenstate as a “rotation” of a mass eigenstate through the mixing matrix U:

In this post, I am only to introduce the elementary theory of neutrino oscillations (NO or NOCILLA)/neutrino mixing (NOMIX) from a purely heuristic viewpoint. I will be using natural units with .

If we ignore the effects of the neutrino spin, after some time the system will evolve into the next state (recall we use elementary hamiltonian evolution from quantum mechanics here):

and where is the free hamiltonian of the system, i.e., in vacuum. It will be characterized by certain eigenvalues

and here, using special relativity, we write

In most of the interesting cases (when and ), this relativistic dispersion relationship can be approximated by the next expression (it is the celebrated “ultra-relativistic” approximation):

The effective neutrino hamiltonian can be written as

and

In this last equation, we write

with

We can perform this derivation in a more rigorous mathematical structure, but I am not going to do it here today. The resulting theory of neutrino mixing and neutrino oscillations (NO) has a beautiful corresponded with Neutrino OScillation EXperiments (NOSEX). These experiments are usually analyzed under the simplest assumption of two flavor mixing, or equivalently, under the perspective of neutrino oscillations with 2 simple neutrino species we can understand this process better. In such a case, the neutrino mixing matrix U becomes a simple 2-dimensional orthogonal rotation matrix depending on a single parameter , the oscillation angle. If we repeat all the computations above in this simple case, we find that the probability that a weak interaction eigenstate neutrino has oscillated to other weak interaction eigenstate, say when the neutrino travels some distance (remember we are supposing the neutrino are “almost” massless, so they move very close to the speed of light) is, taking and ,

(1)

This important formula describes the probability of NO in the 2-flavor case. It is a very important and useful result! There, we have defined the oscillation length as

with . In practical units, we have

(2)

As you can observe, the probabilities depend on two factors: the mixing (oscillation) angle and the kinematical factor as a function of the traveled distance, the momentum of the neutrinos and the mass difference between the two species. If this mass difference were probed to be non-existent, the phenomenon of the neutrino oscillation would not be possible (it would have 0 probability!). To observe the neutrino oscillation, we have to make (observe) neutrinos in which some of this parameters are “big”, so the probability is significant. Interestingly, we can have different kind of neutrino oscillation experiments according to how large are these parameters. Namely:

–**Long baseline experiments (LBE)**. This class of NOSEX happen whenever you have an oscillation length of order or bigger. Even, the neutrino oscillations of solar neutrinos (neutrinos emitted by the sun) and other astrophysical sources can also be understood as one of this. Neutrino beam experiments belong to this category as well.

**-Short baseline experiments (SBE)**. This class of NOSEX happen whenever the distances than neutrino travel are lesser than hundreds of kilometers, perhaps some. Of course, the issue is conventional.** Reactor experiments **like KamLAND in Japan (Daya Bay in China, or RENO in South Korea) are experiments of this type.

Moreover, beyond reactor experiments, you also have neutrino beam experiments (T2K, , OPERA,…). Neutrino telescopes or detectors like IceCube are the next generation of neutrino “observers” after SuperKamiokande (SuperKamiokande will become HyperKamiokande in the near future, stay tuned!).

In summary, the phenomenon of neutrino mixing/neutrino oscillations/changing neutrino flavor transforms the neutrino in a very special particle under quantum and relativistic theories. Neutrinos are one of the best tools or probes to study matter since they only interact under weak interactions and gravity! Therefore, neutrinos are a powerful “laboratory” in which we can test or search for new physics (The fact that neutrinos are massive is, said this, a proof of new physics beyond the SM since the SM neutrinos are massless!). Indeed, the phenomenon is purely quantum and (special) relativist since the neutrinos are tiny particles and “very fast”. We have seen what are the main ideas behind this phenomenon and the main classes of neutrino experiments (long baseline and shortbaseline experiments). Moreover, we also have “passive” neutrino detectors like SuperKamiokande, IceCube and many others I will not quote here. They study the neutrino oscillations detecting atmospheric neutrinos (the result of cosmic rays hitting the atmosphere), solar neutrinos and other astrophysical sources of neutrinos (like supernovae!). I have talked you about cosmic relic neutrinos too in the previous post. Aren’t you convinced that neutrinos are cool? They are “metamorphic”, they have flavor, they are everywhere!

See you in my next neutrinological post!

# LOG#057. Naturalness problems.

**Posted:**2012/12/02

**Filed under:**Physmatics, Quantum Gravity, The Standard Model: Basics |

**Tags:**CKM matrix, cosmic coincidence, cosmological constant, cosmological constant problem, critical energy density, curvature, dark energy, dark energy density, Dirac large number hypothesis, electroweak scale, energy, energy density, flatness problem, flavour problem, gauge hierarchy problem, Higgs boson, Higgs mechanism, Hubble constant, inflation, inflationary cosmologies, little hierarchy problem, mass, matter density, naturalness, naturalness problem, neutrino mass hierarchy, neutrino masses, neutrino oscillations, NO, NOSEX, parameter, parameter space, Planck era, Planck scale, PMNS matrix, QCD, QFT, quark-lepton complementarity, SM, Standard Cosmological Model, Standard Model, strong CP problem, theta term, types of naturalness, vacuum, vacuum energy, W boson, Z boson 8 Comments

In this short blog post, I am going to list some of the greatest “naturalness” problems in Physics. It has nothing to do with some delicious natural dishes I like, but there is a natural beauty and sweetness related to naturalness problems in Physics. In fact, they include some hierarchy problems and additional problems related to stunning free values of parameters in our theories.

**Naturalness problems** arise when the “naturally expected” property of some free parameters or fundamental “constants” to appear as quantities of order one is violated, and thus, those paramenters or constants appear to be very large or very small quantities. That is, naturalness problems are problems of untuning “scales” of length, energy, field strength, … A value of 0.99 or 1.1, or even 0.7 and 2.3 are “more natural” than, e.g., Equivalently, imagine that the values of every fundamental and measurable physical quantity lies in the real interval . Then, 1 (or very close to this value) are “natural” values of the parameters while the two extrema or are “unnatural”. As we do know, in Physics, zero values are usually explained by some “fundamental symmetry” while extremely large parameters or even can be shown to be “unphysical” or “unnatural”. In fact, renormalization in QFT was invented to avoid quantities that are “infinite” at first sight and regularization provides some prescriptions to assign “natural numbers” to quantities that are formally ill-defined or infinite. However, naturalness goes beyond those last comments, and it arise in very different scenarios and physical theories. It is quite remarkable that naturalness can be explained as numbers/contants/parameters around 3 of the most important “numbers” in Mathematics:

**REMEMBER: Naturalness** of X is, thus, being 1 or close to it, while values approaching 0 or are unnatural. Therefore, if some day you heard a physicist talking/speaking/lecturing about “naturalness” remember the triple and then assign “some magnitude/constant/parameter” some quantity close to one of those numbers. If they approach 1, the parameter itself is natural and unnatural if it approaches any of the other two numbers, zero or infinity!

I have never seen a systematic classification of naturalness problems into types. I am going to do it here today. We could classify naturalness problems into:

1st.** Hierarchy problems**. They are naturalness problems related to the energy mass or energy spectrum/energy scale of interactions and fundamental particles.

2nd. **Nullity/Smallness problems**. These are naturalness problems related to free parameters which are, surprisingly, close to zero/null value, even when we have no knowledge of a deep reason to understand why it happens.

3rd.** Large number problems (or hypotheses).** This class of problems can be equivalently thought as nullity reciprocal problems but they arise naturally theirselves in cosmological contexts or when we consider a large amount of particles, e.g., in “statistical physics”, or when we face two theories in very different “parameter spaces”. Dirac pioneered these class of hypothesis when realized of some large number coincidences relating quantities appearing in particle physics and cosmology. This Dirac large number hypothesis is also an old example of this kind of naturalness problems.

4th. **Coincidence problems**. This 4th type of problems is related to why some different parameters of the same magnitude are similar in order of magnitude.

The following list of concrete naturalness problems is not going to be complete, but it can serve as a guide of what theoretical physicists are trying to understand better:

1. **The little hierarchy problem**. From the phenomenon called neutrino oscillations (NO) and neutrino oscillation experiments (NOSEX), we can know the difference between the squared masses of neutrinos. Furthermore, cosmological measurements allow us to put tight bounds to the total mass (energy) of light neutrinos in the Universe. The most conservative estimations give or even as an upper bound is quite likely to be true. By the other hand, NOSEX seems to say that there are two mass differences, and . However, we don’t know what kind of spectrum neutrinos have yet ( normal, inverted or quasidegenerated). Taking a neutrino mass about 1 meV as a reference, the little hierarchy problem is the question of why neutrino masses are so light when compared with the remaining leptons, quarks and gauge bosons ( excepting, of course, the gluon and photon, massless due to the gauge invariance).

Why is

We don’t know! Let me quote a wonderful sentence of a very famous short story by Asimov to describe this result and problem:

*“THERE* IS AS YET INSUFFICIENT *DATA* FOR A MEANINGFUL *ANSWER*.”

2. **The gauge hierarchy problem.** The electroweak (EW) scale can be generally represented by the Z or W boson mass scale. Interestingly, from this summer results, Higgs boson mass seems to be of the same order of magnitue, more or less, than gauge bosons. Then, the electroweak scale is about . Likely, it is also of the Higgs mass order. By the other hand, the Planck scale where we expect (naively or not, it is another question!) quantum effects of gravity to naturally arise is provided by the Planck mass scale:

or more generally, dropping the factor

Why is the EW mass (energy) scale so small compared to Planck mass, i.e., why are the masses so different? The problem is hard, since we do know that EW masses, e.g., for scalar particles like Higgs particles ( not protected by any SM gauge symmetry), should receive quantum contributions of order

*“THERE* IS AS YET INSUFFICIENT *DATA* FOR A MEANINGFUL *ANSWER*.”

3. **The cosmological constant (hierarchy) problem.** The cosmological constant , from the so-called Einstein’s field equations of classical relativistic gravity

is estimated to be about from the cosmological fitting procedures. The Standard Cosmological Model, with the CMB and other parallel measurements like large scale structures or supernovae data, agree with such a cosmological constant value. However, in the framework of Quantum Field Theories, it should receive quantum corrections coming from vacuum energies of the fields. Those contributions are unnaturally big, about or in the framework of supersymmetric field theories, after SUSY symmetry breaking. Then, the problem is:

Why is ? Even with TeV or PeV fundamental SUSY (or higher) we have a serious mismatch here! The mismatch is about 60 orders of magnitude even in the best known theory! And it is about 122-123 orders of magnitude if we compare directly the cosmological constant vacuum energy we observe with the cosmological constant we calculate (naively or not) with out current best theories using QFT or supersymmetric QFT! Then, this problem is a hierarchy problem and a large number problem as well. Again, and sadly, we don’t know why there is such a big gap between mass scales of the same thing! This problem is the biggest problem in theoretical physics and it is one of the worst predictions/failures in the story of Physics. However,

*“THERE* IS AS YET INSUFFICIENT *DATA* FOR A MEANINGFUL *ANSWER*.”

4.** The strong CP problem/puzzle. **From neutron electric dipople measurements, theoretical physicists can calculate the so-called -angle of QCD (Quantum Chromodynamics). The theta angle gives an extra contribution to the QCD lagrangian:

The theta angle is not provided by the SM framework and it is a free parameter. Experimentally,

while, from the theoretical aside, it could be any number in the interval . Why is close to the zero/null value? That is the strong CP problem! Once again, we don’t know. Perhaps a new symmetry?

*“THERE* IS AS YET INSUFFICIENT *DATA* FOR A MEANINGFUL *ANSWER*.”

5. **The flatness problem/puzzle.** In the Stantard Cosmological Model, also known as the model, the curvature of the Universe is related to the critical density and the Hubble “constant”:

There, is the total energy density contained in the whole Universe and is the so called critical density. The flatness problem arise when we deduce from cosmological data that:

At the Planck scale era, we can even calculate that

This result means that the Universe is “flat”. However, why did the Universe own such a small curvature? Why is the current curvature “small” yet? We don’t know. However, cosmologists working on this problem say that “inflation” and “inflationary” cosmological models can (at least in principle) solve this problem. There are even more radical ( and stranger) theories such as varying speed of light theories trying to explain this, but they are less popular than inflationary cosmologies/theories. Indeed, inflationary theories are popular because they include scalar fields, similar in Nature to the scalar particles that arise in the Higgs mechanism and other beyond the Standard Model theories (BSM). We don’t know if inflation theory is right yet, so

*“THERE* IS AS YET INSUFFICIENT *DATA* FOR A MEANINGFUL *ANSWER*.”

6. **The flavour problem/puzzle.** The ratios of successive SM fermion mass eigenvalues ( the electron, muon, and tau), as well as the angles appearing in one gadget called the CKM (Cabibbo-Kobayashi-Maskawa) matrix, are roughly of the same order of magnitude. The issue is harder to know ( but it is likely to be as well) for constituent quark masses. However, why do they follow this particular pattern/spectrum and structure? Even more, there is a mysterious lepton-quark complementarity. The analague matrix in the leptonic sector of such a CKM matrix is called the PMNS matrix (Pontecorvo-Maki-Nakagawa-Sakata matrix) and it describes the neutrino oscillation phenomenology. It shows that the angles of PMNS matrix are roughly complementary to those in the CKM matrix ( remember that two angles are said to be complementary when they add up to 90 sexagesimal degrees). What is the origin of this lepton(neutrino)-quark(constituent) complementarity? In fact, the two questions are related since, being rough, the mixing angles are related to the ratios of masses (quarks and neutrinos). Therefore, this problem, if solved, could shed light to the issue of the particle spectrum or at least it could help to understand the relationship between quark masses and neutrino masses. Of course, we don’t know how to solve this puzzle at current time. And once again:

*“THERE* IS AS YET INSUFFICIENT *DATA* FOR A MEANINGFUL *ANSWER*.”

7. **Cosmic matter-dark energy coincidence.** At current time, the densities of matter and vacuum energy are roughly of the same order of magnitude, i.e, . Why now? We do not know!

*“THERE* IS AS YET INSUFFICIENT *DATA* FOR A MEANINGFUL *ANSWER*.”

And my weblog is only just beginning! See you soon in my next post! 🙂