Fifty Years of Neutrino Physics: A Few Episodes

  • B. Pontecorvo
Part of the Ettore Majorana International Science Series book series (EMISS, volume 12)


On the occasion of the 70th birthday of Edoardo Amaldi, about two years ago, I was invited to give a review talk on Neutrino Physics at the International Assembly of physicists, the major part of which was certainly not composed of neutrino physicists. Then the talk was much simpler than today, since you are all professional “neutrinists”. Notice that I have only 30 minutes at my disposition (instead of 2 hours at the Amaldi Conference). I must avoid the danger of being trivial by telling you the a,b,c of your work. A way out of this difficulty, maybe, is to give a few recollections of such developments in neutrino physics which either are curious and at the same time very important (Pauli, Fermi) or about which I happen to be well informed for various reasons. Thus my talk will be entirely subjective (at a variance with the one I gave at the Amaldi celebration) and will be mainly dedicated to the young gene ration of neutrino investigators, who are well informed about today and yesterday developments, but not so well about old ones. I shall not talk about today problems, of course, since you are all here to discuss them during almost a week. By the way, most of you are used to thinking in terms of 105 – 106 neutrino events and forgot, if you knew it, that 16 years after the Pauli neutrino hypothesis (1930) neutrinos were still considered as undetectable particles, and, as you heard today, they were first revealed in the free state only 25 years after they had been invented.


Neutrino Oscillation Beta Decay Neutral Current Neutrino Experiment Bubble Chamber 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. (1).
    Pauli: letter (4 December 1930) to a meeting of physicists, among which Geiger and Meitner, taking place in Tübingen. The letter was conserved by Meitner and its content was discussed since 1930. The letter was widely published only after many years. (See, for example: Brown, Phys. Today, September, 1978).Google Scholar
  2. (2).
    Pauli, “Septieme Conseil de Physique Solvay 1933”, Gauthier-Villars, Paris (1934).Google Scholar
  3. (3).
    For accurate measurements in the reaction 37A+e37Cl+ν (K-capture) see: Rodeback, Allen, Phys. Rev., 86: 466 (1952). A striking picture of apparent non-conservation of momentum in the beta decay of He into Li and an electron by Csikay and Szaley appeared in Proc. of the Intern. Conf., Paris, Publ. Dunad (1959).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. (4).
    See for reviews of the subject: Primakov and Rosen, Report on Progress in Physics, 22: 121 (1959); Fiorini, Proc. of the ν’77 Conf., Ed. Nauka, Moscow (1978). Neutrino-less double beta decay has not been observed and upper limits 10−3 − 10−4 for the lepton non-conserving relative amplitudes have been set for the double decays 48Ca→48Ti (Bardin et al.), 76Ge→76Se (Fiorini et al.), 82Se→82Kr (Cleveland et al.), 103Te→103Xe (Zdelenko et al.).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. (5).
    The first measurements of the 3H beta spectrum were performed by means of proportional counters in 1949: Hanna, Pontecorvo, Phys. Rev., 75: 983 (1949)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Curran et al., Phil. Mag., 40: 53 (1949). Then substantial improvements were obtained by using as a 3H source a few molecule thick layer and a magnetic spectrometer, by Bergkvist, CERN Report 69-7: 91 (1969)Google Scholar
  7. Curran et al., Nucl. Phys. B39: 317 (1972). The last and best result is mνe ⩽ 35 eV (90% C. l.) (Tret’jakov et al., Proc. of the Int. Conf. on High Energy Phys., Tbilisi, Vol. II: 118 (1976)). Less accurate measurements have been performed by implanting 3H in a Si(Li) detector (Simpson, Proc. ν’79 Conf., Vol. 2: 208).Google Scholar
  8. (6).
    Pontecorvo, Phys. Rev., 72: 246 (1947)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Puppi, Nuovo Cimento 5: 505, 1948CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Klein, Nature, 161: 897 (1948)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Lee et al., Phys. Rev., 75: 905 (1949)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Tiomno, Wheeler, Rev. Mod. Phys., 21: 144 (1949).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. (7).
    These experiments gave upper limits as bad as \( {\text{R}}\,{\text{ = }}\frac{{\mu \to e\gamma }} {{\mu \to all}}\, \leq 10\% . \) Values of R were greatly improved in a number of experiments, the bsst of which, performed with a gamma hodoscope and a magnetic spectrometer, gives a limit as good as R→2·10−10 at the 90% c. l. (Anderson, Hofstadter et al., Proc. of the Tokyo International Conference, (1978)). For other similar processes the following limits are obtained \( {{R'}}\,{\text{ = }}\frac{{\mu \to 3e}} {{\mu \to all}}\, \leq 2.10^{ - 9} \) (Korenchenko et al., Proc. of the ν’77 Conference) and \( {{R'' = }}\frac{{\mu ^{\text{ - }} + ^{32} {\text{S}} \to {\text{e}}^{\text{ - }} + ^{32} {\text{S}}}} {{\mu ^{\text{ - }} + ^{32} {\text{S}} \to \nu _\mu + \ldots }} \leq 1.5 \cdot 10^{ - 10} \) (Badertscher et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 39: 1383 (1977).Google Scholar
  14. (8).
    Wick, Wightman and Wigner, Phys. Rev. 88: 101 (1952).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. (9).
    Bethe, Phys. Rev. 55: 434 (1939).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. (10).
    Gamow and Schonberg, Phys. Rev. 59: 539 (1941).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. (11).
    Pontecorvo, National Res. Council Canada, Rep. PD 205 (1946)Google Scholar
  18. Pontecorvo, Helv. Phys. Acta, Suppl. 3: 97 (1950).Google Scholar
  19. (12).
    Gamow, Phys. Rev. 70: 505 (1948).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. (13).
    Fowler, Appl. J. 127: 551 (1958).Google Scholar
  21. (14).
    Pontecorvo, JETP 36: 1615 (1959).Google Scholar
  22. (15).
    Markov, Proc. of Int. Conf. on High Energy Phys., Rochester p. 578 (1960).Google Scholar
  23. (16).
    Greisen, Proc. Int. Conf. on Instrument High Energy Phys., Interscience Publ. p. 209 (1960).Google Scholar
  24. (17).
    Pontecorvo and Smorodinsky, JETP 41: 239 (1961).Google Scholar
  25. (18).
    Zeldovich and Smorodinsky, JETP 41: 907 (1961).Google Scholar
  26. (19).
    Pontecorvo, Phys. Lett. 1: 287 (1963).Google Scholar
  27. (20).
    Reines et al., Proc. of the ν’72 Conf. 2: 199.Google Scholar
  28. (21).
    Krishnasvami et al., Proc. Roy. Soc. A323: 489 (1971); Osborne et al., Proc. of the ν’72 Conf. 2: 223Google Scholar
  29. (22).
    Fowler and Hoyle, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago-London (1965).Google Scholar
  30. (23).
    Colgate and White, Astrophys. J. 143: 626 (1966).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. (24).
    Zeldovich, Letters JETP 1: 40 (1965).Google Scholar
  32. (25).
    Domagatsky and Zatsepin, Proc. 9th Int. Conf. on Cosmic Rays 2: 1030 (1965).Google Scholar
  33. (26).
    Penzias and Wilson, Appl. J. 142: 419 (1965).Google Scholar
  34. (27).
    Dicke et al., Appl. J. 142: 414 (1965).Google Scholar
  35. (28).
    Zeldovich and Novikov, Lett. JETP 6: 772 (1967).Google Scholar
  36. (29).
    Weinberg, Gravitation and cosmology, John Wiley Inc., New York (1972).Google Scholar
  37. (30).
    Gershtein and Zeldovich, Lett, to JETP 4: 174 (1966).Google Scholar
  38. For cosmological hounds on the mass of neutral leptons see: Lee and Weinherg, Phys. Rev. Lett. 39: 165 (1977)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Dolgav, Visotsky and Zeldovich, Lett. JETP 26: 200 (1977); For cosmological bounds on the number of massless neutrino see: Schvartsman, Lett. JETP 9: 315 (1969)Google Scholar
  40. Steigman, Schram and Gunn, Phys. Lett. 66B: 202 (1977). See also for other limits on neutrino properties from astrophysics considerations: Bernstein, Riderman and Feinberg, Phys. Rev.,.132 1227 (1963)Google Scholar
  41. Berg, Marciano and Ruderman, Phys. Rev. D17: 1395 (1978).Google Scholar
  42. (31).
    Pontecorvo, JETP 53: 1717 (1967); 13: 281 (1971).Google Scholar
  43. (32).
    Gribov and Pontecorvo, Phys. Lett. 28B:493 (1969).Google Scholar
  44. (33).
    Bilenky and Pontecorvo, Phys. Lett. 61B: 248 (1976)Google Scholar
  45. Bilenky and Pontecorvo, Lett. Nuovo Cimento 17: 569 (1976)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Bilenky and Pontecorvo, Comments on nuclear and particle phys. 7: 149 (1977)Google Scholar
  47. Bilenky and Pontecorvo, Phys. Rep. 41: 226 (1978).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. (34).
    Bahcall, Proc. of the ν’72 Conference 1: 29.Google Scholar
  49. (35).
    Berezinsky and Zatsepin, Sov. Phys. Usp. 20: 361 (1977).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. (36).
    Gershtein et al. Proc. of the ν’77 Conf. 1: 106. See also Sutherland et al. Phys. Rev. D13: 2700 (1976); Pethick, Proc. of the ν’79 Conf. 1: 78 Bergen, Norway.Google Scholar
  51. (37).
    Chudakov et al. Proc. of the ν’77 Conf. 1: 155.Google Scholar
  52. (38).
    Dolgoshein et al. Proc. of the ν’77 Conf. 2: 341.Google Scholar
  53. (39).
    Sulak et al. Proc. of the ν’77 Conf. 2: 350.Google Scholar
  54. (40).
    Domogatsky et al. Proc. of the ν’77 Conf. 1: 115.Google Scholar
  55. (41).
    Davis et al. Proc. of the ν’78 Conf. p. 53. The measured rate can be compared with the theoretical rate, which is about twice larger. At this time the computed expected rate is given by Bahcall in: 40 years of stellar energy, Bethe Symposium, Stony Brook, N.Y. (1979).Google Scholar
  56. (42).
    Lande et al. Proc. of the ν’78 Conf. p. 887.Google Scholar
  57. (43).
    Zatsepin, Proc. of the ν’78 Conf. p. 881.Google Scholar
  58. (44).
    See for example: Learned, Proc. of the ν’78 Conf. p. 895.Google Scholar
  59. (45).
    Bethe and Peierls, Nature 133: 532 (1934).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. (46).
    Fermi, Nuovo Cimento 1: 11 (1934).Google Scholar
  61. (47).
    Reines and Cowan, Phys. Rev. 98: 492 (1953); 113: 273 (1959).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. (48).
    Danby et al. Proc. High Energy Conf. at CERN p. 809 (1962).Google Scholar
  63. (49).
    Vasilevsky et al. Phys. Lett. 1: 345 (1962).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. (50).
    Kobzarev and Okun, JETP 41: 1205 (1961).Google Scholar
  65. (51).
    Kirkwood, Hanna and Pontecorvo, Phys. Rev. 75: 982 (1949).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. (52).
    Davis, Phys. Rev. 97: 766 (1955).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. (53).
    Pontecorvo, JETP 33: 549 (1957).Google Scholar
  68. (54).
    Pontecorvo, JETP 37: 1751 (1959).Google Scholar
  69. (55).
    Nguyen Van Hieu and Pontecorvo, JETP Lett. 7: 137 (1968).Google Scholar
  70. (56).
    Pontecorvo and Ryndin, Proc. Kiev Int. High Energy Phys. Conf. p. 233 (1959).Google Scholar
  71. (57).
    Bludman, Nuovo Cimento 9: 433 (1958).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. (58).
    Zeldovich, JETP 36: 964 (1959)Google Scholar
  73. Bouchiat and Bouchiat, Phys. Lett. 48B: 111 (1974).Google Scholar
  74. (59).
    Barkov and Zolotarev, Proc. of the ν’78 Conf. p. 423.Google Scholar
  75. (60).
    Prescott et al. Phys. Lett. 77B: 347 (1978).Google Scholar
  76. (61).
    See for example: Conversi, Int. Conf. of the Europ. Phys. Soc., Geneva (1979).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. Pontecorvo
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Nuclear ProblemsJoint Institute for Nuclear ResearchDubnaRussia

Personalised recommendations