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Neutrinos are perhaps the most puzzling of the known particles. They simply flout all the known rules of how particles ought to behave. They scoff at our fancy detectors. Like cosmic cats, they traipse throughout the universe without worry or care, occasionally interacting with the rest of us, but really only when they feel like it, which honestly isn't all that often.
Most frustrating of all, they wear masks and never look the same way twice.
Alignment - Earth - Sun - Spring - Equinox
An annual celestial alignment between Earth and the sun known as the spring equinox announces that the seasons are shifting and spring is on the way.
Neutrinos are weird. There are three kinds: the electron neutrino, the muon neutrino and the tau neutrino. (There are also the antiparticle versions of those three, but that's not a big part of this story.) They are so named because these three kinds get to party with three different kinds of particles. Electron neutrinos join interactions involving electrons. Muon neutrinos get paired up with muons. No points will be awarded for guessing what the tau neutrino interacts with.
So far, that's not weird at all. Here comes the strange part.
For particles that are not neutrinos — like electrons, muons and tau particles — what you see is what you get. Those particles are all exactly the same except for their masses. If you spot a particle with the mass of an electron, it will behave exactly like an electron should behave, and the same goes for the muon and the tau. What's more, once you spot an electron, it will always be an electron. Nothing more, nothing less. Same for the muon and the tau.
Cousins - Electron - Muon - Neutrinos
But the same does not go for their cousins, the electron, muon and tau neutrinos.
What we call, say, the "tau neutrino" isn't always the tau neutrino. It can...
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