Scientists on the hunt for evidence of quantum gravity’s existence at the South Pole | Science & Technology

University of Copenhagen team contributes to an Antarctic large-scale experiment striving to find out if gravity also exists at the quantum level. An extraordinary particle able to travel undisturbed through space seems to hold the answer.

Several thousand sensors distributed over a square kilometer near the South Pole are tasked with answering one of the large outstanding questions in physics: does quantum gravity exist? The sensors monitor neutrinos — particles with no electrical charge and almost without mass — arriving at the Earth from outer space. A team from the Niels Bohr Institute (NBI), University of Copenhagen, have contributed to developing the method which exploits neutrino data to reveal if quantum gravity exists.

“If as we believe, quantum gravity does indeed exist, this will contribute to unite the current two worlds in physics. Today, classical physics describes the phenomena in our normal surroundings such as gravity, while the atomic world can only be described using quantum mechanics. The unification of quantum theory and gravitation remains one of the most outstanding challenges in fundamental physics. It would be very satisfying if we could contribute to that end,” says Tom Stuttard, Assistant Professor at NBI.

Tom Stuttard is co-author of a scientific article recently published by the journal Nature Physics. The article presents results from a large study by the NBI team and American colleagues. More than 300,000 neutrinos have been studied. However, these are not neutrinos of the most interesting type originating from sources in deep space. The neutrinos in this study were created in the Earth’s atmosphere, as high-energy particles from space collided with Nitrogen or other molecules.

“Looking at neutrinos originating from the Earth’s atmosphere has the practical advantage that they are by far more common than their siblings from outer space. We needed data from many neutrinos to validate our methodology. This has been accomplished now…

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