L.A. Times science writer K.C. Cole goes embedded at Fermilab for a first-person Column One about the hunt for elusive sterile neutrinos.
It's one of the hardest experiments in physics: an attempt to pin down a particle that leaves no tracks and interacts with nothing a ghost as hard to grasp as the chill that raises the hairs on your neck.
The only hint that this subatomic poltergeist even exists popped up in a 1995 experiment brushed off as almost certainly wrong by the vast majority of physicists. If confirmed, however, the finding would shake physics to its boots, introduce a whole new family of particles and perhaps help explain why the universe is made of matter.
So naturally, when Columbia University physicist Janet Conrad invited me to help search for the particle at the world's premier physics lab, I could hardly pass up the chance. The fact that I can hardly hang a picture didn't faze Conrad a bit. It's just like cooking, she said. "There's a recipe by which you put it together. It comes out, or it doesn't."
You have to read it to know how the story ends.