Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Neutrino Judaism

I just finished watching an episode of Nova, "The Ghost Particle," which aired on Feb. 21st at 8PM. Its the story of two scientists, Raymond Davis and John Bahcall and their hunt for the neutrino. A must watch, even if you're not into science.

John, who first thought of becoming a rabbi, came up with the model of how the sun works. (Interestingly he went into physics and astronomy because he felt it best suited his "quest for truth). Raymond used an experiment to try and figure out whether John's model was correct. What happend? The experiment only detected 1/3 of the neutrinos that John's calculations predicted.

They both spent the next 30 (yes, 30) years on the problem. Raymond, despite being told that his experiment was flawed, persisted, attempting to improve it, yet found no errors. John spent over 30 years defending his calculations, getting into heated arguments at conferences. No errors.

Imagine that. The experimental results contradict your calculations, or the entire scientific community says your experiment is flawed. Yet you can't find an eror. So what do you do?

Well? If, for 30 years, almost daily, you were confronted with the Documentary Hypothesis, or other "proofs" that Judaism is wrong, what would you do? If, for 30 years you were subjected to ridicule for your beliefs, what would you do? Could you stand up to it? Is Godol Hador's "Science of Judaism" enough?

One day, about 6 years ago, they were proven correct. They were both right. 30 years of work, 30 years of being told they were wrong, that the Standard Model of physics was correct, and in one night it all changed. Both were correct (Davis's experiment was only designed to detect one of three kinds of neutrinos, it took almost 10 years to build a detector that would detect all three kinds, thus accounting for the discrepency), and the Standard Model wrong.

Bahcall passed away a few months ago from a rare blood disorder. Davis has Alzheimers. Two men, who despite everyone saying they were wrong, were right.