If you had a reasonably cheap particle accelerator, one that could produce a high flux of few-GeV neutrinos, you could make yourself some real money.

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50 Responses to Chords

  1. Emblematic says:


  2. Dale says:

    Are you going to give us a hint how? I can’t imagine any other use than renting it out to replace more expensive particle accelerators.

  3. Fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    Perhaps he is referring the the fact that several Nobels have been awarded for neutrino-related results, or perhaps that you could pretend to have developed practical nuclear fusion and suck in large amounts of venture financing to productize it.

    • Fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

      Or perhaps he is referring to this:

      Neutrinos may have properties beyond
      even our new paradigm. Such properties
      would again force a profound revision in
      our thinking.

      Neutrinos can probe matter and its interactions more
      deeply than any other particle. Neutrinos themselves
      may have even more extraordinary behavior than that
      already seen. Will we discover new fundamental forces
      affecting neutrino interactions? Are there more than
      three flavors of neutrinos? Now that we have found
      one unexpected property of neutrinos – mass – how
      many more new properties might we discover? For
      more than 75 years, neutrinos have been surprising
      us. If past history is any guide, there is a lot more
      excitement to come.

      From here:

      Click to access neutrino_pamphlet.pdf

  4. Sarmange says:

    To practise alchemy.

  5. John says:

    Maybe it can turn lead into gold.

  6. Space Ghost says:

    Neutrino generator + detector on opposite sides of the earth for faster communication (straight line rather than satellite or earth’s surface). Use this to make quicker financial decisions than your rivals. Profit.

    • Fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

      The bit rate might be a bit low, even if you modulated the production of neutrinos.

      • gcochran9 says:

        That’s why you need high flux. And a better detector.

        • Dale says:

          Ah, yes, that works. But you can’t generate an enormous profit, because the next guy will build one for the same NY-to-London route, or whatever. Eventually competition will drive the price you can charge down to just covering the capital and operating costs.

          • Greying Wanderer says:


            “Michaela Lewis, in his 2014 book, “Flash Boys”, describes frontrunning by High Frequency Trading Firms (HFT’s), who have located their servers geographically close to stock exchanges and skim a profit from the original investor. By using the HFT’s geographic advantage, they are able to capture knowledge of the investor’s intentions. The HFT server then executes it’s own trades on those same stocks first, driving up/down prices on buy/sell orders, to the disadvantage of the original investor.”

      • Purple Furple says:

        You only need one.

    • Rick says:

      Stocks are traded with the fastest communications networks in the world. If yours was faster, you would make a lot of money.

    • Peter Lund says:

      That only works if you can modulate (and detect) fast enough.

  7. Fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    Heh, maybe you could get people to walk through the beam and get that ghostly glow from all the Cherenkov radiation.

  8. Some Troll's Legitimate Discussion Alt says:

    Tear all the copper out of it and take it to a scrapyard.

  9. If past experience is any guide, you can get a number of people to panic about a neutrino beam passing 80 miles below their homes.

  10. Neutrinos pretty much pass through anything without stopping but they do interact, though weakly. Perhaps you could glean information about the interior of the Earth, like location of minerals, subterranean water, etc. by how the neutrino “signal” is altered.

    Neutrinos for communication isn’t really needed as long as you have satellites… But in a war between advanced countries with satellite killing rockets, neutrino detectors could give a way of maintaining communication by beaming signals through the earth.

    If you could make positrons cheaply, you could make powerful, compact bombs.

  11. Dylan Catlow says:

    This is totally off topic but I don’t know how else to contact you. Would you please look over this article:

    Click to access returns-on-education.pdf

    The authors claim to demonstrate that the black-white IQ gap narrows substantially once blacks and whites enter college, with the gap being cut in half by graduation, suggesting that the gap reflects some environmental deficit that blacks start to overcome once they receive proper educational training in college. At first I thought that they made the error of assuming that black IQ was actually being boosted during college rather than merely selected for. In other words, if the average IQ of blacks entering college is 90, and the average IQ of whites entering college is 105, and if graduating from college requires an IQ of 105 (if there’s an intelligence threshold of some sort), then clearly the difference between blacks who graduate from college and blacks who don’t will be greater than the difference between whites who graduate from college and whites who don’t, simply because a greater proportion of blacks are being weeded out. However, the authors seem to acknowledge this:

    “Similarly, if one were to consider only racial differences in the impact of a college education, a possible explanation might be that black college students benefit more because those who graduate college are a select subset of the blacks who enter college, whereas whites who graduate college are a less select group. It is certainly true that there is greater attrition among black college students than among white college students in general, as well as among NLSY participants (Herrnstein & Murray, 1994). However, this fact only makes the failure to profit from high school by the highly select group of black future college graduates all the more remarkable, and raises the possibility that the increases they showed in college resulted from the removal of whatever may have been handicapping them during high school.”

    I don’t have the background to know if the authors pulled any tricks, as I suspect they did, so I would greatly appreciate it if you would read the article over and tell me what you think. Thanks

  12. AppSocRes says:

    I confess that I cannot imagine, given our current technologies, what neutrinos might be good for. As other commenters have pointed out their reactions with matter are very weak. Neutrino experiments typically run for a time period on the order of a year, involve detector masses in the kilo tons, and yield confirmed neutrino detections on the order of 100 or so per experiment.

    Cosmic Gall
    by John Updike

    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.
    They snub the most exquisite gas,
    Ignore the most substantial wall,
    Cold-shoulder steel and sounding brass,
    Insult the stallion in his stall,
    And, scorning barriers of class,
    Infiltrate you and me! Like tall
    And painless guillotines, they fall
    Down through our heads into the grass.
    At night, they enter at Nepal
    And pierce the lover and his lass
    From underneath the bed—you call
    It wonderful; I call it crass.
  13. Rick says:

    You could ruin other people’s atomic bombs from anywhere on earth. But that wouldn’t make money.

    • gcochran9 says:

      With neutrinos? How?

      • Rick says:

        It has been suggested that sending a neutrino beam with an energy of 1000 TeV through the Earth to wherever the nuclear weapon was located would produce neutrons in a ‘hadron shower’ and would cause fission reactions in the plutonium or uranium in the bomb. These reactions would either melt or vaporize the bomb.

        • ohwilleke says:

          Now that is a worthwhile application.

        • ursiform says:

          It sounds good in theory. But it would take an enormous flux, and a flux high enough to get useful absorption in the volume of a warhead would have significant absorption passing through the earth, which has a lot of uranium, a tiny bit of plutonium, and a lot of similar nuclei in it.

        • ilkarnal says:

          Utter nonsense. That would only make sense in a world where the fissile cores of nuclear bombs were kept at a critical configuration, which has to be a place where natural neutron flux was nonexistent, and where the fissile material for that bomb didn’t spontaneously decay at all. All of these aren’t true, obviously.

          Now, a more interesting idea is showering a warhead that is nearing its target with neutrons in order to trigger the chain reaction – which can only take place during/after super high speed compression of the fissile core – early. The best way to do this is probably to set off a nuclear bomb near the warhead’s target, as those tend to bombard their surroundings with plenty of neutrons for a fairly lengthy stretch of time. You want as many neutrons as you can get to have the best chance of having one wandering within your opponent’s collapsing core in the very, very brief window you have. The tyranny of the inverse square law means that this would only work to protect targets that require very close, very high yield detonations.

          While that might be a viable way to protect superhardened assets, it could be politically difficult to implement. Perhaps the way to do it is to make the enemy supply the nukes – I suspect that’s part of what made the ‘dense pack’ silo configuration attractive. That’s pure speculation on my part, though.

      • Lee Wang says:

        See also:
        It tends to come up on arxiv vs snarxiv often.

        I think at least this paper suggests interfering anti- neutrino and neutrino beams which would not suffer from the problems you mentioned.

        A moderately high energy antineutrino-neutrino inference beam would be, as far as I know, the ultimate weapon in space warfare, considering its low spread hence high range and complete inability of enemy combatants to stop it.

        • AppSocRes says:

          Can you provide information on how to convert a burst of neutrinos into a focused beam?

          • Lee Wang says:

            The paper discusses this problem and various other issues with producing a neutrino beam. See paragraph 4. engineering. There is some work being done apparently but there are various problems: energy efficiency, lack of squeezing/mirrors compared to lasers. Suffice to say it’s an open engineering challenge.

  14. MawBTS says:

    Sometimes when I’m bored I use tweezers to carefully pull a single proton off mercury atoms, thus turning them into gold.

    • Fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

      Wouldn’t it be better to use chopsticks to catch one of the lose protons on a water molecule flying by and force it onto a lead atom? You wouldn’t have to deal with mercury vapor that way.

  15. RK says:

    Greg, this is random, but is there any evolutionary tendency for mitochondria-related nuclear genes to relocate themselves to the female sex chromosome, across Eukaryotes?

  16. st says:

    Can these particles travel back in time as well?

    • Tim says:

      All particles can travel back in time. One directional time as we know it is meaningless when talking about single particles. Many become their own anti-particles (they look different from our point of view) when going the other way in time.

      Neutrinos might be one of a few that are also their own anti-particles no matter how you look at them.

  17. cloudswrest says:

    Efficient detection of neutrinos would light up the location of every operating nuclear reactor in the world, including those in nuclear submarines. ~100 MWatt neutrino beacons all of them.

  18. Scott Locklin says:

    I’ve blogged on this. No. Detector cross section is too low.

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