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Most thorough test to date finds no Lorentz violation in high-energy neutrinos

The universe should be a predictably symmetrical place, according to a cornerstone of Einstein's theory of special relativity, known as Lorentz symmetry. However, at infinitesimally small scales, there may exist a violation to Lorentz symmetry, or Lorentz violation, in which a mysterious, unknown field warps the behavior of these objects in a way that Einstein would not predict. The hunt has been on to find evidence of Lorentz violation in various phenomena, from photons to gravity, with no definitive results. Physicists believe that if Lorentz violation exists, it might also be seen in neutrinos, the lightest known particles in the universe, which can travel over vast distances and are produced by cataclysmic, high-energy, astrophysical phenomena. Any confirmation that Lorentz violation exists would point to completely new physics that cannot be explained by Einstein's theory. Recently, scientists led the most thorough search yet of Lorentz violation in neutrinos. They analyzed two years of data collected by the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, a massive neutrino detector buried in the Antarctic ice. The team searched for variations in the normal oscillation of neutrinos that could be caused by a Lorentz-violating field. According to their analysis, no such abnormalities were observed in the data, which comprises the highest-energy atmospheric neutrinos that any experiment has collected. The team's results rule out the possibility of Lorentz violation in neutrinos within the high energy range that the researchers analyzed. This provides evidence that neutrinos behave just as Einstein's theory predicts.

Visit Website | Image credit: Martin Wolf, NSF IceCube Neutrino Observatory