You probably read the title and went duh it’s the electron. Well you’re wrong the smallest particle is called the neutrino. The 2 things you need to know is that it’s one millionth of an electron, and it was first discovered in 1970. It was discovered when one hit a hydrogen atom.
What’s this got to do with me you ask yourself. Nothing to be completely honest, unless you’re a Chicago suburb. If you live in one (I doubt you do) around 1,100 scientists from around the world will be building a proton accelerator. The proton accelerator is one half of the experiment to find out the early life of the universe. The other half is in an abandoned mine in South Dakota, 800 miles away.
The experiment is called the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment or simply DUNE is going to take some times to get up and running but when it does we’ll finally understand how matter was formed in the universe. The theory behind neutrinos is that when the Big Bang happened in the first millionth of a second it made neutrinos and antineutrinos. These particles then decayed and formed matter and antimatter.
There are three different kinds of neutrinos muon, tau, and electron. They change between the three quite fast, compared to antineutrinos. The difficulty arrises when they only change over hundred of miles so that’s why they have the 800 mile difference. A little off topic but about 1 trillion go through us every second just thought you should know that.
They’ll be shot from the Chicago suburb and will take 4 milliseconds to get to South Dakota. The sensor in the South Dakota facility will be filled with liquid argon, a very dense substance. Then they hit the argon it will register and they’ll see if both changed. The only problem they face is if the different decay rates aren’t great enough then they are looking the wrong way.