Lake Baikal’s neutrino dreams

When a neutrino smashes into matter it generates light, lots of it. So stare into the dark night for long enough and you’ll see ‘em flash as they pass by. The problem is that neutrino hits are rare events. So you need a big volume of dark and whole lot of time to sit back and watch ‘em in.

So the Japanese, they built themselves a giant underground lake at huge cost and lined the sides with photon detectors to peer into the darkness. They called it Super-Kamiokande.

The Russians? They dangled some waterproof cameras into a lake. Same thing, fraction of the cost. In fact, even better cos Super-Kamiokande blew up a couple of years ago because of a design fault.
And what a lake! The Ruskies chose Lake Baikal in Siberia, the largest and deepest body of fresh water on the planet. It’s one bee-yoo-tiful piece of real estate.

That was in the late 1990s. Now the Ruskies are gettin more ambitious. They wanna increase the size of their neutrino telescope to a cubic kilometre and have started testing the technology that they need to do it (they’re basically adding extra cameras over a larger volume). Even the Japanese can’t build underground lakes that big.

But there’s a potential problem on the horizon. Lake Baikal is perfect for neutrino detection cos the water is super clear. In fact, its unique ecosystem seems to remove whatever rubbish and pollutants the Ruskies have so far thrown at it.

The trouble is that them developers have got their eyes on the region and hope to turn the lake into a holiday destination extraordinaire for rich Ruskies. And yer know what that mean: before ya know it, the lake’ll be filled with old beer bottles,  shopping trolleys and worse. Ain’t nobody want a floater bobbing its way through yer neutrino telescope.

Perhaps them Japanese had the right idea after all.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/0710.3063: The Baikal Neutrino Telescope: Status and Plans

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