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Name a Neutrino!


A flood of replies greeted Jason Edward Floyd's [jfloyd@cscwam.umd.edu] reasonable question in Space Digest:

> I have heard that it is possible to name a star or galaxy.
> Is this true? If so how does one go about doing it? 
In a very informative followup, Michael P. Collin [mikec@phx.mcd.mot.com] explained:

> There is at least one organization, the International
> Star Registry, which will, for a fee, provide anyone
> with a very authentic looking certificate assigning
> your name to a designated star... If you question them
> carefully, or check the small print in their agreement,
> you'll learn that their registry of star names is not
> referenced by anyone in the world's astronomical community.
> In other words, for their price, you get a fancy piece of
> paper. Nothing more.
This reminded me of a scheme I've been brooding over for some time. The flaw in the ISR scam is that the stars involved *already have names*, and have been the objects of study by astronomers for many years. Hence nobody will pay any attention to the names ISR gives to stars.

Now, here at Fermilab, we have a facility which can manufacture elementary particles and point them in certain directions.

In particular, we have one of the few neutrino-production facilities in the world. We could offer to produce a NEW neutrino, one WHICH HAS NEVER EXISTED BEFORE, give it a name you suggest, and CATAPULT IT OFF INTO THE DISTANT COSMOS at the SPEED OF LIGHT! This is an object that HAS NEVER BEFORE HAD A NAME! All for a modest fee.

Think of it. Your neutrino, a living remembrance of you or your sweetie, speeding through the void indefinitely. Stars BURN OUT and DIE... but your neutrino is GUARANTEED TO LAST AS LONG AS THE UNIVERSE-- or your money back! [See Technical Note below.]

Along with the certificate proving that your neutrino has been manufactured, named, and launched, we can tell you its destination: coordinates on the sky, and perhaps the nearest known object to that location. We need a program that figures out the right ascension and declination of the Neutrino beam line as the Earth turns (if anybody cares, it's 22 degrees east of North, at Batavia, Illinois, 41 51 13 N, 88 18 41 W, and tangent to the ground, 745 feet above sea level). Couple this with a database of astronomical catalogue objects, and the program can print out a message like:

Your neutrino, NAME_HERE, will pass within DISTANCE light-years of the GALAXY_OR_QUASAR known as OBSCURE_CATALOGUE_DESIGNATION in the year DISTANT_FUTURE_YEAR.

I think this idea is much neater than getting a crummy old star named after you. Definitely worth millions.

The catch is that all the necessary equipment belongs to the U.S. federal government. I've never asked them whether my Intergalactic Neutrino Registry business could use it, or what it would cost. I fear they'd put too much red tape in my way. It might be a good way for the Department of Energy to raise supplemental funding, too. After all, they rent out Fermilab's cornfields to farmers. But are they farsighted enough to see the brilliance of my proposal?

[Technical Note: There is a finite chance the neutrino will get absorbed by intergalactic matter, but it's rather small, and our business can well afford paying such refunds. If the universe is closed, all our neutrinos will be absorbed just a few minutes (how long?? good physics exam exercise) before the Big Crunch. But I'm willing to bet that most customers won't bother to collect on our claim in the final minutes of the universe-- they'll probably be busy with other matters. If the universe is open or flat, we have no worries.

One other danger: It's conceivable that neutrinos might someday be discovered to decay or oscillate into some other kind of particle. But in the fine print, we can put language that'll void the gurantee if that happens.]

                      ______meson   Bill Higgins
                   _-~
     ____________-~______neutrino   Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
   -   -         ~-_
 /       \          ~----- proton   Bitnet: HIGGINS@FNALB.BITNET
 |       |
 \       /                          SPAN/Hepnet/Physnet: 43011::HIGGINS
   -   -
     ~                              Internet: HIGGINS@FNALB.FNAL.GOV

Netscape HTML Checked! January 20, 1994 - Robert Lentz (ralentz@ralentz.com)

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