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Old Aug 4th 2014, 11:31 AM   #1
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Are shell electrons accompanied by virtual neutrinos?

Hi everyone,

This is my first post. Years ago I read in a science magazine that (at least according to a certain theory) every shell electron would be accompanied by one (or was it two?) virtual neutrino(s). At least that's my recollection of what I read. I know it sounds a little crazy. I was searching for the source of this for hours, even went to a library trying to find it in a heap of magazines... To no avail. Google searches didn't help either.

Any component of the statement above other than "electron" or "neutrino" could be due to my incorrect recollection, so don't stick to the letter and use a little associative thinking if appropriate.

Thanks to anybody who can help me with this.

Best,
Curious

Last edited by Curious; Aug 4th 2014 at 11:38 AM.
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Old Aug 4th 2014, 01:49 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Curious View Post
Hi everyone,

This is my first post. Years ago I read in a science magazine that (at least according to a certain theory) every shell electron would be accompanied by one (or was it two?) virtual neutrino(s). At least that's my recollection of what I read. I know it sounds a little crazy. I was searching for the source of this for hours, even went to a library trying to find it in a heap of magazines... To no avail. Google searches didn't help either.

Any component of the statement above other than "electron" or "neutrino" could be due to my incorrect recollection, so don't stick to the letter and use a little associative thinking if appropriate.

Thanks to anybody who can help me with this.

Best,
Curious
I don't understand what you mean by "accompanied"? Electrons and neutrinos are both participants in the "weak nuclear force" and as such an electron will be expected to emit an electron neutrino (via an intermediate Z particle) every now and again, but it wouldn't happen often and it wouldn't hang out around the atom like the electron would.

-Dan
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Old Aug 4th 2014, 02:33 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by topsquark View Post
I don't understand what you mean by "accompanied"? Electrons and neutrinos are both participants in the "weak nuclear force" and as such an electron will be expected to emit an electron neutrino (via an intermediate Z particle) every now and again, but it wouldn't happen often and it wouldn't hang out around the atom like the electron would.

-Dan
Possibly the article could have meant that a shell electron would surround itself primarily with virtual neutrino/antineutrino pairs?

I haven't heard of an electron emitting an electron neutrino via an intermediate Z boson. All I know is electron/neutrino conversion by emission of a W boson. Further elaboration and/or a helpful link would be appreciated!
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Old Aug 4th 2014, 05:09 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Curious View Post
Possibly the article could have meant that a shell electron would surround itself primarily with virtual neutrino/antineutrino pairs?
They could on a small enough size (high energy) sized scale, in fact probably do.

Originally Posted by Curious View Post
I haven't heard of an electron emitting an electron neutrino via an intermediate Z boson. All I know is electron/neutrino conversion by emission of a W boson. Further elaboration and/or a helpful link would be appreciated!
(Ahem!) Yes, it would be a W interaction. I had a brain fart.

-Dan
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Old Aug 5th 2014, 04:41 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by topsquark View Post
They could on a small enough size (high energy) sized scale, in fact probably do.
Thanks, that may be a hint in the right direction. The question is if this could naturally occur in certain atoms (like highly compact ones with many protons). Do you have any ideas on the kind of setting that would allow this to happen?

Originally Posted by topsquark View Post
(Ahem!) Yes, it would be a W interaction. I had a brain fart.

-Dan
Never mind, a "W" is nothing but a "Z" that has been superposed with another "Z" anyway.:-)

But in the electron/neutrino conversion, not only would the neutrino say "hasta la vista" immediately, the electron would vanish as well, right? Do electrons sometimes converse into neutrinos spontaneously, or only under certain special conditions?

However, the article didn't refer to this kind of interaction.

I guess I should be looking through another few thousand magazine articles; if successful, I'll get back to you on this.

Or maybe somebody else here has an idea?

Last edited by Curious; Aug 5th 2014 at 05:08 AM.
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Old Aug 5th 2014, 08:23 AM   #6
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Does this make sense?

Is this one of those situations where every particle is accompanied by a zoo of virtual particles which pop in and out of reality (at random)?

My (very, very vague) understanding of this is that the virtual particles in the zoo depend on the energy of the "real" particle.

The original article you are thinking of might be indicating that,
given the known energy of the electron, one might expect it to be accompanied by virtual neutrinos.

I admit I am stretching a little knowledge a long way here, perhaps too far...
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Old Aug 5th 2014, 10:05 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by MBW View Post
Is this one of those situations where every particle is accompanied by a zoo of virtual particles which pop in and out of reality (at random)?

My (very, very vague) understanding of this is that the virtual particles in the zoo depend on the energy of the "real" particle.

The original article you are thinking of might be indicating that,
given the known energy of the electron, one might expect it to be accompanied by virtual neutrinos.

I admit I am stretching a little knowledge a long way here, perhaps too far...
MBW,

You're one clever bird!

What your comment brings to mind is that some electrons in atoms like Gold reach relativistic velocities (which actually has a strong influence on the characteristics of those elements). Perhaps they carry enough energy for the neutrino/antineutrino kind of vacuum polarization to occur constantly? Just speculating here...
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Old Aug 5th 2014, 09:11 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Curious View Post
Thanks, that may be a hint in the right direction. The question is if this could naturally occur in certain atoms (like highly compact ones with many protons). Do you have any ideas on the kind of setting that would allow this to happen?
It would happen in any setting. Electrons, protons, neutrons, deltas, pions, etc. etc.

Originally Posted by Curious View Post
Never mind, a "W" is nothing but a "Z" that has been superposed with another "Z" anyway.:-)
Ouch! Where did you get that from? It is completely not true! The weak force is carried by three intermediate vector bosons, W+, W-, and the Z0. The W's are antiparticles of each other. Under no circumstances could a W be made of two Zs. Check charge conservation.

Originally Posted by Curious View Post
But in the electron/neutrino conversion, not only would the neutrino say "hasta la vista" immediately, the electron would vanish as well, right? Do electrons sometimes converse into neutrinos spontaneously, or only under certain special conditions?
We kind of got into two different interactions here. Partly my fault. We started talking about neutrino pair production around the electron. That interaction has nothing to do with the electron per se, just that neutrino pair production occurs around an electron. That's what I had been trying to think of at first. Now it looks like you are talking about e- --> W- + (electron neutrino). This is a whole different beast. Yes, the electron would disappear under this interaction. However I must mention that this interaction will occur very rarely, not only because the weak force is, well, weak, but also because the electron would have to come up with the energy to produce a W particle which is much more massive than the electron. You're not going to find many electrons in an atom that could do this. Only under a (major) statistical energy fluctuation could this happen.

Sorry for the confusion...I guess I really didn't understand your initial question.

-Dan
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Last edited by topsquark; Aug 5th 2014 at 09:16 PM.
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Old Aug 6th 2014, 03:43 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by topsquark View Post
It would happen in any setting. Electrons, protons, neutrons, deltas, pions, etc. etc.
What I meant was, could the energy level in really compact electron shells (some electrons reach nearly c in certain heavy atoms) be high enough for virtual neutrino/antineutrino pairs to be prevalent over other virtual particles?

Originally Posted by topsquark View Post
Ouch! Where did you get that from? It is completely not true! The weak force is carried by three intermediate vector bosons, W+, W-, and the Z0. The W's are antiparticles of each other. Under no circumstances could a W be made of two Zs. Check charge conservation.
Never mind... This was nothing but a remark regarding the similarity between the letters W and Z (intended to be humorous; I added a self-made smiley in the mistaken belief that I would make this clear). Sorry about the confusion. :-)

Originally Posted by topsquark View Post
We kind of got into two different interactions here. Partly my fault. We started talking about neutrino pair production around the electron. That interaction has nothing to do with the electron per se, just that neutrino pair production occurs around an electron.
Really? MBW thinks the kind of pairs that tend to show up around a particle has indeed something to do with the energy the latter carries.

Originally Posted by topsquark View Post
That's what I had been trying to think of at first. Now it looks like you are talking about e- --> W- + (electron neutrino). This is a whole different beast. Yes, the electron would disappear under this interaction. However I must mention that this interaction will occur very rarely, not only because the weak force is, well, weak, but also because the electron would have to come up with the energy to produce a W particle which is much more massive than the electron. You're not going to find many electrons in an atom that could do this. Only under a (major) statistical energy fluctuation could this happen.
O.k., let's rule this one out.

Originally Posted by topsquark View Post
Sorry for the confusion...I guess I really didn't understand your initial question.
Alas, I could not be too clear about the matter because of my somewhat vague recollection of that article. Thanks for helping me to figure it out.
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Old Aug 6th 2014, 07:06 PM   #10
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We don't actually need to the electron to have neutrino pair production. It's just more likely if the electron is there because it explicitly carries the weak field. But the field is not necessary...pair production of any particle occurs whenever we "look" at a region of space very closely (ie. at the high energy scale.) The energy of the electron would certainly help the e- --> W- + (electron neutrino) interaction, but it is not actually necessary.

As to the electrons in heavy atoms, yes there might be more pair production of neutrinos, but there would also be a host of other "light" particles popping in and out as well...electron-positron and muon pair production would also be likely. The neutrinos would certainly be there but to produce them we need to produce a W, which makes e+ e- pair production much more likely.

-Dan
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