Particle physics gives maths potentially powerful new tool

Peter Lynch in The Irish Times:

Although abstract in character, mathematics has concrete origins: the greatest advances have been inspired by the natural world. Recently, a new result in linear algebra was discovered by three physicists trying to understand the behaviour of neutrinos.

Neutrinos are subatomic particles that interact only weakly with matter, so that they pass easily through a wall, the Earth or a star. The American poet John Updike described them beautifully in his poem Cosmic Gall: Neutrinos, they are very small. / They have no charge and have no mass/ And do not interact at all./ The earth is just a silly ball/ To them, through which they simply pass, / Like dustmaids down a drafty hall/ Or photons through a sheet of glass.

Neutrinos are produced in vast numbers within the sun, and trillions pass harmlessly through our bodies every second. Almost nothing can stop them. Dune (the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment) aims to unlock the mysteries of neutrinos. This international experiment will use particle accelerators to send an intense beam of high-energy neutrinos from Fermilab in Illinois 800 miles through the earth to massive detectors a mile below ground in South Dakota. The experiment may lead to life-saving applications in medicine and could change our understanding of the universe.

More here.