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> Fascinating Researches In Contemporary Physics Issue: 2003-2 Section: Science



All those who are science - addicted have certainly read some books of the great French writer Jules Verne.

His style has fostered love for discovery and exploration, challenging nature, which, for every scientist worthy this name, is destined to be overpowered by man’s will.

One century later Jules Verne can be defined a pseudo-scientist, the pioneer of science-fiction which, in the course of time, has become true. Today, in fact, it is possible to go “around of the world in 80 days”, to travel “From the Earth to the Moon” and to sail “20,000 leagues under the sea“.

In the future, a submarine laboratory studying the phenomenon of the neutrinos under the sea level will be realised.

This research, initially merely linked to the experimentation in the field of physics, will spin off many applications in several disciplines in many scientific areas.

But what are the neutrinos?

They are elementary particles of the smallest mass. The discovery of the neutrinos was made by the scientists Raines and Cowan during an experiment, near a nuclear reactor.

The hypothesis of their existence had been formulated more than a quarter of a century before, by the scientists Wolfgang Pauli (1931), in order to explain some phenomena manifested in the nucleus of the atom, and by Enrico Fermi, who in 1934 accepted Pauli’s theory and justified the existence of the neutrinos with a proper mathematical theory defining the neutrino an electronically neutral particle. After the second world war, it was Bruno Pontecorvo who suggested the use of the nuclear reactors as sufficiently intense sources to make the study of the neutrinos possible in a laboratory.

The present scenery of the physics of the neutrino evidences the great progress obtained in nearly a century of searches, from the beginning till the present day.

However, there are still many mysteries and fascinating questions aroused by these particles. For some years the physicists have carried out their experiments in the depths of the sea and the ice of the South Pole. There is the opportunity to install great apparatuses to some kilometres of depth. The detectors, distributed on distances of a kilometre, will have to identify high energy- neutrinos, originated by cosmic sources, by measuring the light produced by the interactions of the neutrinos with water.

Among the study programs which are carried out thanks to various competences, we can also mention “NEMO” (NEutrino Marine Observatory). No other name would be more suitable! This laboratory will probably be set up in Sicily. In fact, a series of oceanographic studies in the Mediterranean are being carried out in order to detect the areas more suitable to accommodate the experiment.

But a series of problems have to be solved.

First of all it is necessary to build a telescope with the necessary specific mechanical and electronic characteristics.

The marine world is completely different from ours and in order to realize whatever apparatus the scientists have to duly consider the submarine depth and soil.

As the complexity of the study and the activities of the research connected are to be considered, it is necessary the international collaboration which, in the case of NEMO, involves several countries in the Mediterranean area.

In conclusion, if physics is the science that studies the natural phenomena in order to give rational explanations to them, usually expressed in mathematical language, in the case of NEMO we can assert that physics is equally based both on experiment and on theory. Today the belief that the NEMO project can be realized in the next decades, is absolutely neither utopia nor science-fiction.

The scientific spin-off that such a project will have on many disciplines is not imaginable presently, but it is certainly an avant-garde project that will solve problems in several scientific disciplines.


Neutrinos and Cosmology

In the well- known theory of the Big Bang, it is supposed that the universe appeared without warning and that it was infinitely hot. One of the great mysteries of Cosmology regards the origin of the matter.

The physicists know that the matter can be created by energy. In a laboratory, the creation of the matter is always compensated by antimatter.

Today the physics of the microscopic world has blended with cosmology in one single discipline. In fact, the new ideas in the physics of high energy are verified more often than ever in a cosmological context and, vice versa, cosmology can be used in order to place ties to the physics of particles.


Neutrinos and Volcanology

The observatory SN-1(Submarine Network-1) makes the physics of the neutrinos interact with volcanology. SN-1 already placed in the Ionian sea to a depth of 2105 m less than 25 km to east of Catania and with the task to detect seismic and environmental signals. It is equipped with an independent system of data acquisition which records, on hard disk, messages of about seismic events. Presently, the observatory is equipped with a system of hydroacoustic communication that interacts with an operator on board of a ship. In a short time it will be connected with a submarine cable, already placed on the marine bottom by INFN, which will enable it to work on electrical power from the shore and it will be able to transmit in real time the data for the survey of the neutrinos of natural origin. Therefore the first permanent submarine observatory in the world will be realised.



  • Franco Foresta Martin, Dall’atomo al Cosmo – Editoriale Scienza s.r.l. - Trieste, 2002
  • Carlo Bemporad, KamLAND – I Reattori Nucleari confermano l’oscillazione dei neutrini solari. Da: “Dai Quark alle Galassie”, INFN Magazine, n° 13 Feb. 2003 – (pag. 4 e 5);
  • Fabrizio Murtas (web master), Data Web, - last update: 09/10/2002



Fabrizio Murtas (web master), Data Web, - last update: 09/10/2002.