See Inside Scientific American Volume 308, Issue 4

Astrophysicists Turn to the Skies to Measure the Mass of the Neutrino

How an almost massless particle has shaped the large-scale structure of the universe
neutrino secrets, neutrino, cosmic microwave

George Retseck

Measuring the minuscule mass of neutrinos has so far proved impossible—and not for lack of trying. Numerous laboratory experiments over the past few decades have succeeded only in placing loose limits on the three neutrino masses.

We have very compelling reasons to expect that the best way to measure the mass of these tiny particles is, surprisingly, to look for their influence at the largest scales of the universe. For although neutrinos are virtually massless and nearly invisible, their sheer numbers—some 1089 in the universe—make them very consequential players in the cosmos.

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