Olbers Paradox Regarding Neutrinos
Almost two hundred years ago, a noted astronomer named Olbers
had a brilliant question. In realizing that there are many
billions of stars in the sky, and that the surface of each of
them is brilliantly bright, like the surface of the Sun,
it occurred to him that if you looked far enough in ANY
direction you should eventually see the surface of a star!
- A substantial portion of modern astrophysics is based on a
very wrong assumption! This is very disappointing to a Physicist!
- It is agreed that neutrinos penetrate matter with extremely
rare interactions. Nearly all Physicists agree that neutrinos generally
pass entirely through the Earth without interacting with anything
in that process, as though the body of the Earth is not even there!
- Yet, those same astrophysicists all seem to assume that the
neutrinos that we could detect in any experiments must come
from the Sun. And so they make estimates of how many neutrinos
that would be detected in experiments based on the number of
neutrinos that the Sun MUST BE creating.
- For light or other radiation, that reasoning would be sound.
But for particles which easily penetrate the entire diameter of
the Earth, it is simply completely wrong!
- Nearly two hundred years ago (1823), an astronomer named Olbers realized
that there were an immense number of stars in the Universe, but that
most of them are so far away that we do not see them individually.
But what Olbers realized was that if you looked in ANY direction,
far enough, eventually you must encounter the surface of some star.
And so Olbers asked why the night sky was dark when this reasoning
indicated that the night sky should be brilliantly bright, all
comparable with the brightness of the surface of the Sun. This was
known as the Olbers Paradox, and no one could provide an answer for
several decades. Eventually, it was concluded that the Universe
is filled with gases and dust which absorb and reflect light,
and so we do not see light from extremely distant sources.
- Actually, even that explanation is not generally considered
acceptable by most Astrophysicists, as they say that IF
such gases absorb radiation from stars, that would mean absorbing
ENERGY, which would seem to imply that the gases would eventually
become hot and radiate on their own. The common conclusion is
that such an explanation of gases absorbing light cannot therefore
be the explanation for the Olbers Paradox (regarding light and
radiation). In fact, MODERN Astrophysicists still seem to
consider the Olbers Paradox to remain unsolved! A popular idea
today was from Edward Harrison in the 1960s. He ASSUMED that the
Universe is 'not old enough' to yet let light from extremely
distant stars to have gotten to us. That idea necessarily
makes some assumptions which seem extremely weak!
- The FACT that modern astrophysicists do not seem to recognize
is that for neutrinos, there is no gas or dust to absorb or
reflect neutrinos, and therefore, any experiment should be
receiving neutrinos from ALL directions of space.
- Instead of ASSUMING that the number of neutrinos which might
be detected were exclusively due to processes inside our Sun,
where they argue over whether there is a factor of two or three
based on exactly which fusion process is occurring in the center
of the Sun, they should instead be realizing that we certainly
MUST be receiving more than TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND TIMES AS MANY neutrinos
every second, from every direction of space.
- So ALL experiments which have been tried over the past several
decades have been based on an amazingly wrong assumption! It
really does not matter whether the Sun uses one or another fusion
process,as to whether the Sun is creating one or another type of
Meson and therefore whether sunlight headed toward the Earth might
be having CHANGES occur in the neutrinos contained in it,
as the Sun's contribution to whatever neutrino traffic
we experience is nearly irrelevant! The Sun certainly only produces
and supplies to the Earth around 1/200,000 of the neutrinos which
must be passing through us!
- The extreme scale of this error of all arguments regarding
neutrinos seems to call into doubt whether anything at all
is known about neutrinos! If physicists are claiming valid
data regarding neutrino traffic, in experiments deep in mines to
try to eliminate other possible radiation sources, and those
experimental measurements are wrong by a factor of 200,000, it all
seems to imply that rather than research, they are aggressively
pursuing guesses and personal assumptions, which seem to all have
been extremely wrong.
- In addition, the concept of placing the detection tanks deep
in mines, may have an additional serious flaw. The have felt the
need to try to minimize the effect of cosmic rays. The argument is that
such a location eliminates all other sources of radiation, such that
the extremely rare events that are attributed to neutrinos might
be noted and counted. The reality is that even in very large
detection tanks deep in mines, detecting even a single event that
is attributed to a neutrino is rare even in entire months. The
apparent flaw is that the Earth contains many radioactive elements
inside it, and when an atom which happens to be nearby to a detection
tank decays, the possible radiations which can be emitted could
easily be interpreted as a result of a neutrino detection. In other
words, even the assumption that a deep mine location ensures
validity of neutrino detections seems quite likely to be wrong,
or at least subject to question.
That would mean that in every possible direction we might look,
we should see intensely bright light coming in (from that direction)
from a star surface. So Olbers said that that would imply that the
night sky should be all brilliantly lit up everywhere, as bright
as the surface of the brilliant Sun is, and at least
as bright as daytime! He then noted that we all go out to a
dark sky at night, so that clearly was not true. He just did not
know why, and so his interesting observation came to be known
as the Olbers Paradox.
For many years, no one could answer it. Eventually, (some) astronomers
discovered that there are many clouds of gas, particularly inside
our Galaxy but elsewhere too, which do not emit light. So they are
dark clouds of gas. They act somewhat like our atmospheric rain clouds
do in partially or completely blocking the light of the Sun from us.
Therefore, one current understanding regarding the Olbers Paradox
is that there is enough dark gas floating around in the Universe
as to block the light from billions of distant stars. We now
know that we cannot even see the region of the center of our own
Galaxy, only 30,000 light years away, because there is so much
interfering gas in the way!
Around 1935, Nuclear Physicists determined that there are particles
now called neutrinos. A neutrino is created and emitted EVERY TIME
a neutron decays (and a neutron only has a half-life of around 15 minutes)
and when nuclear fusion occurs (as the Sun and all stars create their
energy) and when nuclear fission occurs (what we call nuclear energy and
nuclear bombs). In other words, an unbelievable number of neutrinos
are being created every second! I remember reading somewhere that
the Sun is supposed to create so many neutrinos that, EVERY SECOND,
400 of them pass through the cornea of each of your eyes! Forever!
When most atomic particles or nuclear radiation passes through us,
there are usually clear effects when collisions occur with our body's
atoms. Cancer can be caused, or genetic mutations, radiation disease,
or thousands of other effect, most of which happen to be bad for us!
So it is a good thing that neutrinos nearly always pass completely
through us without hitting anything! More than that, standard
physics agrees that nearly all neutrinos pass completely through
the entire Earth without hitting anything, and so they come out
the other side just like they went in!
Neutrinos are described as having no electrical charge, no magnetic
characteristics, and possibly no mass at all. They are essentially
nearly non-existent. Physicists first decided they must exist because
there is a property of angular momentum that protons and neutrons and
electrons have, usually called "spin". When a neutron
decays into a proton and electron, the amount of this spin
appears to not be conserved. But Newton proved that angular momentum
must always be conserved. So the neutrino was invented, with essentially
no characteristics at all EXCEPT spin!
For quite a while, no one could figure out any experiment that might
confirm the existence of neutrinos. With ONLY spin, they wouldn't
really ever cause any effect that we could record or measure! But after
about 30 years, a couple experiments were created, and a small number
of neutrinos were claimed to have been confirmed. There are still only
a very small number of results of such experiments, and all the results
are rather indirect as to actually being confirmations of neutrinos.
Neutrino Detection Experiments
According to each of several theories of the nuclear fission processes
going on in the center of the Sun, a certain number of neutrinos
can be calculated as being created per second. Most of the neutrinos
would head out into deep space, but a small fraction would run
into the Earth. Of course, most of those would go right through and
not be detectable! If some sort of detector could be made of pretty
large size, it is pretty easy to calculate how many neutrinos
should pass through it, for each of the theories. But such detectors
would have to be SO sensitive that all kinds of other particles and
waves could cause results, too. So, such experiments are generally
built in very deep mines. The reasoning is that cosmic rays and all
of our surface activities would get blocked out by all that rock and
soil, and the only things that could cause events would be neutrinos.
I am not entirely sure about that logic, because the Earth's rocks contain
many radioactive materials, Radon gas, Radium, Uranium, and hundreds
of others. It seems to me that if some Radon gas seeps up near that
detector, or if there happens to be some Uranium nearby, then the
results of the experiment would become meaningless. If a Uranium atom
fissions, or even if a neutron is emitted from any nearby atom, a
neutrino would be emitted that would act exactly like the ones that
would allegedly come from the Sun.
However, I am not sure that is the biggest problem! The experiments
are designed on calculations based on expected neutrino emissions
from the Sun. And, once in a while, an event is recorded, and it
is nearly always automatically attributed to the Sun. (The oldest
running experiment, around 35 years, cannot tell what direction a neutrino
might have come from, only that an event happened. Newer experiments
are attempting to determine the direction as well.)
Keep in mind that VERY few such events are recorded! This is not like a
chemical reaction where countless billions of reactions occur. A few events
per year is not unusual.
Olbers Paradox as applied to Neutrinos
Consider the Olbers reasoning regarding neutrinos.
Since neutrinos apparently go through absolutely everything, and since
every star in the Universe should be producing neutrinos just like the
Sun does, doesn't it figure that the Olbers Paradox should apply?
According to accepted
Physics theory, there should be at least one neutrino emitted
during every nuclear fusion event, along with one or more photons
of light. Even if the light is obscured from us for most of the stars,
the neutrinos should not be, because they should have easily passed
through any and all material on the way.
Shouldn't we be getting NOT just neutrinos from the Sun, but from every
star as well? In other words, shouldn't we be receiving FAR more
neutrinos than simply those expected from the Sun?
We do experiments deep in underground caves and mines to detect
neutrinos from the Sun, but shouldn't we actually be
receiving around 200,000 times that rate of neutrinos because the total
angular area of the sky is around that much larger than the angular area of
the Sun? Every one of those stars that sends photons toward us must be
creating an equivalent number of neutrinos in the process, right? So it
seems that we should be inundated by random incoming neutrinos from every
It seems to me that the experiments intended to find Solar neutrinos,
should all be being swamped by even larger numbers of neutrinos from
all those other stars. Doesn't that seem to make the Solar
neutrino experiments somewhat pointless, UNLESS the precise direction
of the neutrino was identified as coming from a VERY small area
in the center of the Sun? (NOT from the whole visible area of the
Sun but a tiny, tiny source location at the very center of the Sun!)
In that case, if a large number of neutrinos
were detected that came from that tiny originating space, then,
yes, such experiments might make sense. Otherwise, at best, the results
of such experiments seem to only imply SOME possible source of neutrinos.
And if that is NOT the case, then either the neutrinos have some sort of
limitation on their mean path length or that the "map" thus created should
give some indication of any non-sphericity of the Universe. In both cases,
new thought seems necessary.
In other words, I do not see why the Olbers paradox should not apply to
This presentation was first placed on the Internet in October 2004.
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C Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago