By-TRILOK SINGH(CEO/Owner) & Dr. Ravi P. Agrahari (Scientist in IIT Delhi)
Q.1 What are Neutrinos? How Neutrinos will help understand the various processes of Earth? What are its other significances? Ans. Neutrinos, first proposed by Swiss scientist Wolfgang Pauli in 1930, are the second most widely occurring particle in the universe, only second to photons, the particle which makes up light. In fact, neutrinos are so abundant among us that every second, there are more than 100 trillion of them passing right through each of us — we never even notice them. This is the reason why INO needs to be built deep into the earth — 1,300 metres into the earth.
At this depth, it would be able to keep itself away from all the trillions of neutrinos produced in the atmosphere and which would otherwise choke an over-the-ground neutrino detector. Neutrinos have been in the universe literally since forever, being almost 14 billion years old — as much as the universe itself. Neutrinos occur in three different types, or flavours – ve, vì and vô. These are separated in terms of different masses. From experiments so far, we know that neutrinos have a tiny mass, but the ordering of the neutrino mass states is not known and is one of the key questions that remain unanswered till today. This is a major challenge INO will set to resolve, thus completing our picture of the neutrino. Neutrinos are very important for our scientific progress and technological growth for three reasons.
First, they are abundant.
Second, they have very feeble mass and no charge and hence can travel through planets, stars, rocks and human bodies without any interaction. In fact, a beam of trillions of neutrinos can travel thousands of kilometres through a rock before an interaction with a single atom of the rock and the neutrino occurs.
Third, they hide within them a vast pool of knowledge and could open up new vistas in the fields of astronomy and astrophysics, communication and even in medical imaging, through the detector spin-offs. Further, they have many more significance such as-
First, neutrinos may have a role to play in nuclear non-proliferation through the remote monitoring of nuclear reactors. The plutonium-239 which is made via nuclear transmutation in the reactor from uranium-238 can potentially be used in nuclear devices by terrorist groups. Using appropriate neutrino detectors, the plutonium content can be monitored remotely and used to detect any pilferage. Neutrino research can be our answer to ensure that no terror group ever acquires nuclear weapons.
Second, understanding neutrinos can help us detect mineral and oil deposits deep in the earth. Neutrinos tend to change their “flavour” depending on how far they have travelled and how much matter they have passed through in the way.
Far more importantly, we believe that this same property might help us detect early geological defects deep within the earth, and thereby might be our answer to an early warning system against earthquakes. This is where an area of Geoneutrinos is applicable. First found in 2005, they are produced by the radioactive decay of uranium, thorium and potassium in the Earth’s crust and just below it. Rapid analysis of these Geoneutrinos by neutrino monitoring stations — a process called Neutrino Tomography — could provide us vital seismological data which can detect early disturbances and vibrations produced by earthquakes.
Third, as we now know, neutrinos can pass right through the earth. They may open up a faster way to send data than the current ‘around the earth’ model, using towers, cables or satellites. Such a communication system using neutrinos will be free of transmission losses as neutrinos rarely react with the atoms in their path. This can open up new vistas for telecom and Internet services. Some scientists further believe that if there is any extraterrestrial form of life, neutrinos will also be the fastest and most trusted way to communicate with them.
Fourth, neutrinos are the information bearers of the universe — which are almost never lost in their path. India’s effort in studying neutrinos at INO may help us unravel the deepest mystery of the universe — why there is more matter than antimatter in the universe. Some scientists believe that formidable neutrino research can help us understand dark matter. Dark matter and dark energy make up 95 per cent of the universe, far more predominant than ordinary matter in the universe — but we hardly understand it. Neutrinos are the only way to detect this great mystery which may completely alter our understanding of the universe and physics. Searches for this dark matter can only be carried out in INO. We believe that the neutrino is our mode of access to some of the most unimaginable technologies, and therefore, with INO, India is poised to take its rightful place at the helm of neutrino research.
Q.2 What is INO? What are its objectives? Discuss its benefits for India?
Ans. The India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) Project is a multi-institutional effort aimed at building a world-class underground laboratory with a rock cover. The underground laboratory, consisting of a large cavern of and several smaller caverns, will be accessed by a tunnel. INO project is jointly supported by Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Department of Science & Technology (DST) with DAE acting as the nodal agency. The observatory will be located underground so as to provide adequate shielding to the neutrino detector from cosmic background radiation. Tunnel construction is very common and will not have any impact on environment, water sources or dams in the region.
The operation of INO will have no release of radioactive or toxic substances. It is not a weapons laboratory and will have no strategic or defense applications. The objective of INO is to conduct basic research on the elementary particle called neutrino. Presently 21 research institutes, Universities and IITs from all over the country are involved in this project. INO is expected to galvanise interest in basic science research in the whole country and particularly in and around Theni and Madurai districts of Tamil Nadu. Science students across the country will have opportunity to pursue cutting edge research in the field of particle physics while being located in India. This project for experiment on neutrinos is very important for our scientific progress and technological growth for three reasons. First, they are abundant.
Second, they have very feeble mass and no charge and hence can travel through planets, stars, rocks and human bodies without any interaction. In fact, a beam of trillions of neutrinos can travel thousands of kilometres through a rock before an interaction with a single atom of the rock and the neutrino occurs. Third, they hide within them a vast pool of knowledge and could open up new vistas in the fields of astronomy and astrophysics, communication and even in medical imaging, through the detector spin-offs. The experiment has potentials to benefit us largely by playing a role in nuclear non- proliferation through the remote monitoring of nuclear reactors, understanding neutrinos can help us detect mineral and oil deposits deep in the earth, They may open up a faster way to send data than the current ‘around the earth’ model, using towers, cables or satellites and neutrinos are the information bearers of the universe and neutrino research can help us understand dark matter which is a great mystery yet to solve. In this way the INO project experiment on Neutrinos is our mode of access to some of the most unimaginable technologies, and therefore, with INO, India is poised to take its rightful place at the helm of neutrino research.
Q.3 What is Mitochondrial gene therapy? Explain the process of Three Parent Embryo developments?
Ans. Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy, a ground-breaking technique that uses genetic material from three different people to prevent certain inherited — and hitherto untreatable — genetic diseases from passing from the mother to her offspring, received a resounding mandate on Tursday in the House of Commons. Britain thus becomes the first country in the world to approve such a procedure, considered the only hope for women who carry defective mitochondria to have healthy children. Mitochondrial gene therapy, the technique, would allow women who have mutations in the DNA of their mitochondria, the organelles that provide chemical energy for cells, to have genetically related children who don’t carry the mutations. It is controversial, however, because it would modify the DNA of an embryo in a way that could be passed on to future generations. People who have faulty mitochondria can experience a variety of symptoms, including heart problems, seizures, and blindness. The Symptoms are variable, however, and the condition can be difficult to diagnose. Some babies born with defective mitochondria die within months. Other people don’t show any symptoms until much later in life. The process of three parent baby involves following steps-
• It will treat women with mitochondrial disease (a range of inherited diseases caused by defective mitochondria, the elements in the cell that generate energy).
• The healthy nuclear DNA will be removed by patient’s egg cell leaving behind faulty mitochondrial DNA.
• Patient’s Nuclear DNA will be transplanted to donor’s egg with healthy mitochondrial DNA
. • Therefore, by replacing the dysfunctional mitochondria carried by a woman who wishes to conceive with the healthy mitochondria of a donor. The egg is then fertilised with the partner’s sperm through IVF.
• The embryo thus created is one technically cleansed of the mutated mitochondrial DNA that the mother originally carried.
• The reconstructed egg cell fertilsed with sperm in the lab and implanted into patient, and thus the resulted embryo will have three genetic parents.
Q.4 Explain Big Bang theory? Recently scientists have discovered a Big Black Hole, what are the implications of this discovery on Big Bang theory?
Ans. The Big Bang theory is an effort to explain what happened at the very beginning of our universe. Discoveries in astronomy and physics have shown beyond a reasonable doubt that our universe did in fact have a beginning. Prior to that moment there was nothing; during and after that moment there was something: our universe. The big bang theory is an effort to explain what happened during and after that moment. According to the standard theory, our universe sprang into existence as “singularity” around 13.7 billion years ago. What is a “singularity” and where does it come from? We don’t know for sure. Singularities are zones which defy our current understanding of physics. They are thought to exist at the core of “black holes.”
Black holes are areas of intense gravitational pressure. The pressure is thought to be so intense that finite matter is actually squished into infinite density (a mathematical concept which truly boggles the mind). These zones of infinite density are called “singularities.” Our universe is thought to have begun as an infinitesimally small, infinitely hot, infinitely dense, something – a singularity. Where did it come from? Why did it appear? We don’t know. After its initial appearance, it apparently inflated (the “Big Bang”), expanded and cooled, going from very, very small and very, very hot, to the size and temperature of our current universe.
It continues to expand and cool to this day and we are inside of it: incredible creatures living on a unique planet, circling a beautiful star clustered together with several hundred billion other stars in a galaxy soaring through the cosmos, all of which is inside of an expanding universe that began as an infinitesimal singularity which appeared out of nowhere for reasons unknown. This is the Big Bang theory. Recently, Scientists say they have discovered a black hole so big that it challenges the theory about how they grow. Scientists said this black hole was formed about 900 million years after the Big Bang. But with measurements indicating it is 12 billion times the size of the Sun, the black hole challenges a widely accepted hypothesis of growth rates.
“Based on previous research, this is the largest black hole found for that period of time. Current theory is for a limit to how fast a black hole can grow, but this black hole is too large for that theory. The creation of super massive black holes remains an open topic of research. However, many scientists have long believed the growth rate of black holes was limited. Black holes grow, scientific theory suggests, as they absorb mass. However, as mass is absorbed, it will be heated creating radiation pressure, which pushes the mass away from the black hole. Basically, we have two forces balanced together which set up a limit for growth, which is much smaller than what has been found. Discovery is still going on further and scientists expects more black holes to be observed as the project advances.