Particles from Batavia to Soudan
Tom, You asked:
Hi Tom, I am a physicist working on the NuMI/MINOS project that is sending particles from Batavia to Soudan and hopefully I can answer you question about how the particles get from here to there.
The particles we are sending to Soudan are called neutrinos. These neutrinos have almost no mass and travel at the speed of light. The way we detect particles such as neutrinos is to make them 'interact' with other particles in the form a some kind of detector (there is a nice analogy of this on our NuMI/MINOS website http://www-numi.fnal.gov/public/neutrinos.html). The different families of particles (quarks, leptons) interact with different strengths. A individual neutrino has extremely low probability of interacting with matter. A neutrino can travel through thousands of miles of rock without interacting. It is this property of the neutrinos that allows us to send a beam through the earth without any need for a pipe. The very weak interactions of neutrinos with matter is also why we need a very large detector, 5000 tons of steel. If we send enough neutrinos to Soudan then some of them will interact in our detector and we can measure their properties.
Hope this answers your question. You can find more information about the project at our NuMI/MINOS website http://www-numi.fnal.gov/. Click on the linked labelled 'For the Public'.
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