Thursday, March 15, 2007

Beautiful Columbus

I'm on the second stop of my "Grad Schools That Didn't Reject Me" tour and I have to tell you that Columbus is one ugly place on a gray winter day. When I was here for an REU during the summer, everything was very green. Being from Oregon, I suppose I had the idea that if it was green (aka not Utah brown) for some of the year it would be green all of the year. Well it turns out I was wrong. In Oregon we have evergreen trees. In Columbus, they have deciduous trees. That makes a really big difference because everything here looks brown and dead. Yuck! (Check back later for a picture of the deadness in Ohio).

Aside from the scenery, I am enjoying my visit to OSU's physics department. The grad students aren't nearly as bright and happy as the ones at Colorado (or BYU, for that matter), but the research being done here is very interesting. The professor that I would like to work with, John Beacom, works with sources of astrophysical neutrinos. Specifically, one such class of sources is supernovae like the one on the left. Neutrinos are beleived to play a big role in core-collapse supernovae and may carry away up to 10% of the total energy output of these massive explosions. That's a lot of neutrinos, especially considering how little rest mass neutrinos have. Astronomers estimate that there is a supernovae about every second somewhere in the universe, so by this point in the history of the universe, there should be an awful lot of neutrinos flying around and almost all of them haven't interacted with anything since they were created. A new neutrino detector being built at the South Pole should be able to detect this 'cosmic neutrino background' and the energies of the neutrinos should be able to tell us a lot about how the evolution of the universe has changed (1) the way stars explode, (2) the way stars are made (i.e. Early stars' neutrinos may have different energies than the neutrinos from stars today), and (3) if neutrino 'flavor mixing' really does occur or not (i.e. have all the neutrinos 'decayed' to a prefered flavor?).
The bottom line is that the neutrino may be the wimpiest particle of all (so far), but what it lacks in strength, it makes up for in quantity. If I end up at OSU, I'll spend my days working with the wimps of the universe.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, as long as you stay away from the WIMPZILLAS you'll probably be okay. We may do some similar research Nick, just different parts.

    Again, congratulations with this school as well.


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