PBS Ghost Particle neutrinos showing Standard Model wrong

  • #1
PBS “Ghost Particle” neutrinos showing Standard Model wrong

Tonight and tomorrow (Sunday), PBS television is rebroadcasting “The Ghost Particle” on the neutrino work by John McCall and Ray Davis that showed the Standard Model Theory was wrong and made incorrect predictions about neutrinos.

Scientist on the program also believe that we and everything in the universe is derived or descended from neutrinos. Beyond the point that massive neutrinos of different flavors are produced from hydrogen changing to helium in the sun or during Big Bang, along with other types of reactions. But that the original hydrogen and fundamental elements created in the Big Bang somehow actually came from neutrinos.

A TV show is of course aimed at the general public, But does anyone know of any good references or journal papers that address these two issues scientifically:

The Standard Model Theory is it still considered scientifically to be fundamentally flawed? Or are there some journal papers that document, some revised fundamental assumptions within the Standard Model that allow it to predict neutrinos of different flavors and mass as observed. Possibly even predicting some specific characteristics about them, that could be tested for in future observations. Or do we only have a flawed Standard Model with corrections required by the neutrino observations not yet explained from within a revised Standard Model formulation.

What scientific documentation or papers explains why some scientists believe the original Big Bang fundamental particles, helium, hydrogen, etc. all were generated from neutrinos of some type flavor or kind.
Do they explain or speculate when and how this might have happened.?
Do they expect neutrinos would have been created during the inflationary period and then proceeded to decay into other fundamental particles?
Or do they expect the neutrinos were there already all the way back to the singularity (or even before the singularity)?
Do they quantify numbers at all, like relative to the predicted ratio of H to He the big Bang correctly predicted; how many neutrions were there to start "the creation" and how many remained after the fundamental particles were produced.

Links to current scientific understanding on these two points would be helpful.
  • #2
It is not John McCall, but John Bahcall.
  • #3
Adding neutrino masses to the standard model is pretty trivial, and ways on how it can work were thought about *long* before the matter was settled experimentally, but yes it is an extension and not the original vanilla theory.
  • #4
Adding neutrino masses to the standard model is pretty trivial, and ways on how it can work were thought about *long* before the matter was settled experimentally, but yes it is an extension and not the original vanilla theory.
But what is that trivial change.
I like trivial adjustments, they hardly qualify for calling a theory “Wrong”.

So when Janet Conrad of Columbia University has the Model as the focus of her research and is adamant in saying that the Neutrinos with mass “did not fit in OUR theory” and that the Standard Model was “wrong”; it also opened many new doors of discovery. Is this just unscientific hyperbole, over stating the truth to make for more dramatic journalism.

If it really is true that modifying the Standard Model to fit with the new facts is trivial, then what are those trivial fundamental revisions or adjustments. Has not someone documented them and contested the description of a Wrong Standard Model. If no one has so, other than blog-a-sphere comments on both sides of the issue, than forming any objective view it can only be seen as a lack of response that accepts the idea that the Model is scientifically considered wrong in a silent consensus.
Hence my OP question: where are the papers that describe SM as correct by documenting the trivial adjustments to the original.

A Second set of statements by some in the program seem like hyperbole as well.
Mostly proclaimed by Boris Kayser of Fermilab that “Neutrinos are our parents” as everything and all fundamental particles descended from some primordial neutrinos somehow.
I hope they are interviewing real scientists in programs like this and things are not just made up for dramatic journalism. I don’t expect all scientists to agree with such a expectation or idea as everything evolving from a Neutrino Genesis. But shouldn’t there be some scientific papers or something somewhere that gives some credible background for such a idea, before it is stated so adamantly to the public?
  • #5
Try Peskin and Schroeder, or Zee or pretty much any textbook on particle physics or arxiv 'neutrino mass' for any number of review papers.

It was understood long ago that if neutrinos did have mass, they would undergo flavor oscillations in a method similar to an already known phenomenon (CKM physics). Since physicists did not know whether they were or were not massive definitavely at the time, they assumed the minimal hypothesis (no mass), as opposed to adding extra degrees of freedom and more free parameters to the SM. Still it was no shock when Kam settled the matter in 98 in favor of the latter. I mean the majority of physicists have believed in massive neutrinos for thirty some years now (mainly b/c of solar experiments that showed a deficit).

Anyway, it is a slight dramatization to say the SM was wrong b/c of this (though not technically incorrect). I wouldn't use those words, b/c it can mislead a layman in terms of scope, but I suppose you are free on a TV show to be dramatic.

As for the primordial stuff. I suspect he is talking about leptogenesis ideas. It is serious research, but its far from being settled.
Last edited:
  • #6
I think it's also an overdramatization - I wouldn't even use the word "slight". When I learned the Standard Model, back in 1982, I was told that we don't know the neutrino mass, other than that it's smaller than we can measure, so you might as well save yourself some algebra and set m = 0 in your calculations.

That's a far cry from predicting m = 0, and an even farther cry from being proven wrong because m > 0.

That said, most neutrino theorists seem to believe the neutrino mass is Majorana in nature, which would be BSM physics. But this belief is not based on any experiment; it's based on which theories are presently in favor.
  • #7
Back in 1981, I gave an undergraduate seminar about how to detect neutrino masses. The course was nominally about nuclear physics but was popularly known as CERN physics, because it ended with a trip to Geneva (Cernphysik statt Kernphysik).
  • #8
I find it unfortunate that TV shows trying to educate the general public on complex physics would be willing to infringe on the credibility of the scientific community for the sake of making a dramatic statement. By saying that SM is "wrong" you're implying that the use of it was worthless, and we as a scientific community went in completely the wrong direction, to which we must now correct.
Its just another drop in the bucket as far as most physicists are concerned. Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I don't think there are that many particle physicists that don't just view this as a "Ok, well, we figured they would be massive, that's good to know. What can we do now with it." rather than "Oh man, if our previous model didn't account for this one thing then it must all be wrong! What a waste of time this past 50 years!"
  • #9
Sadly, it's not just the TV shows doing. A lot of the neutrino people have been touting this as "the first evidence of BSM physics". I don't think this does the field a service, and I would even say it's borderline incorrect.
  • #10
As for the primordial stuff. I suspect he is talking about leptogenesis ideas. It is serious research, but its far from being settled.
Thanks Haelfix; “Leptogenesis” was the word I needed to put me on track with what Boris Kayser was likely talking about. Basically considering that uncharged leptons existed or were created first and from them charged leptons and baryons are created via Leptogenesis. That followed by Baryogenesis, later followed by Big Bang Nucleosynthesis, etc.
I can see it as at least an interesting speculation worth considering.

Appreciate the comments on Standard Model.
On balance if I had relied on the professional comments as given by Janet Conrad in the program without questioning a bit further as I did here; I would have been left with a Wrong Perception of what the scientific community thought about it
A misleading point I suspect they were probable aware of, but not important to the producers verses a little extra drama. I guess when they say you can't trust the press it includes PBS.

Suggested for: PBS Ghost Particle neutrinos showing Standard Model wrong