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PX435 Neutrino Physics

Lecturer: Steve Boyd

Weighting: 7.5 CATS

Neutrinos are very interesting particles. Originally they fitted into the standard model quite neatly. There are three flavours associated with the electron, muon and tau and all were supposed to have zero mass. However, observations of flavour oscillations (muon neutrinos turning into electron neutrinos for example) showed that flavour eigenstates and mass eigenstates couldn't be the same and that the idea of massless neutrinos was a non-starter. Although this meant that yet more parameters (some angles and some masses) had to be introduced into the standard model, it also provided a possible explanation of the matter/antimatter asymmetry in the universe. This module looks at the observation of neutrinos (they are very hard to detect as they interact only very weakly with other matter), the discovery of the flavour oscillations, and how their properties (as currently known) can be accommodated within the framework of the standard model.

To give an overview of the physics of neutrinos, explain the state of the field today, and describe the experimental work that underlies our current knowledge.

At the end of this module you should:

  • Be familiar with the basic properties of neutrinos, and the different types of interactions that they undergo.
  • Be able to describe the different sources of neutrinos, and the landmark experiments that studied them.
  • Understand the basic theory of neutrino mass and the implications of a non-zero mass.
  • Exhibit an understanding of the present state of the field, be able to describe the major outstanding questions and be familiar with the possible next steps towards answering these questions.


  • Introduction and Historical Overview; Motivation for proposing the neutrino; First discovery by Reines and Cowan and subsequent discoveries
  • The number of neutrinos; Neutrino Properties and Interactions; Neutrino electron elastic scattering; Neutrino nucleon Quasi-elastic scattering; Neutrino nucleon Deep Inelastic scattering
  • Neutrino mass
  • Origin of Neutrinos and Detection; Solar neutrinos; Atmospheric neutrinos; Terrestrial neutrino sources
  • Neutrino Oscillations; Flavour oscillations in vacuum and matter; Solution of the Solar and Atmospheric problems; Limitations of oscillation experiments
  • Direct Mass Searches; Kinematic mass determination
  • Double beta decay; Present and Future
  • Summary of understanding now; Outstanding Questions and the Future of Experimental Neutrino Physics

Commitment: 15 Lectures

Assessment: 1.5 hour examination

The module has a website.

Recommended Texts:
K Zuber, Neutrino Physics, IOPP 2004

Leads from: PX395 The Standard Model