Lorentz violation in solar-neutrino oscillations
High-energy phenomenological and computational physics
January 2010 – May 2011
I conducted my undergraduate thesis research with Prof. Matthew Mewes at Swarthmore College. This was a mostly independent project in which I filled a gap in the theory of Lorentz-violating neutrino oscillations.
I gave a talk (pdf) at Swarthmore as a compliment to the thesis. I provide it here, but the reader should understand that it is necessarily incomplete.
Finally, I wrote a proceedings (arXiv link) and created a poster (pdf) for the CPT '10 conference at Indiana University. These documents were created before the research was complete, but they still provide a basic description.
- Graduated from Swarthmore College with Highest Honors in the thesis examination.
- Nominated by Swarthmore Physics for the APS Apker Award.
Disclaimer: The following information is inevitably incomplete and oversimplified. A nice reference is the Wikipedia page on Lorentz-violating neutrino oscillations.
A few definitions are in order:
- Neutrino – A light, neutrally charged, subatomic particle. Neutrinos interact very weakly, which makes them very difficult to detect. They come from many sources, including the Sun. The solar-neutrino flux on Earth is approximately a trillion per square centimeter per second. However, it is unlikely that any of them will ever interact with our bodies.
- Neutrino oscillations – There are three flavors (or types) of neutrinos. It turns out that a neutrino may start as one flavor, but if measured later, can become a different flavor. Neutrinos are therefore said to oscillate.
- Lorentz violation – The idea that the symmetries of spacetime may not be exact. This would mean the theory of special relativity is not perfect. If true, Lorentz violation would have many far-reaching consequences.
If Lorentz violation actually occurs, it could change the behavior of neutrino oscillations. In this project, I qualitatively and quantitatively described how Lorentz violation would specifically affect solar neutrinos, and how we can use experimental data to search for signs of Lorentz violation. This required both “pen-and-paper” calculations as well as computer simulations.