The Universe Puts On Some Weight

  • Share
  • Read Later
The universe may have just gotten a lot heavier. A team of American and Japanese physicists announced Friday that the neutrino -- a pervasive but elusive subatomic particle long considered to be weightless -- may have mass after all, which could solve the mystery of why the universe doesn't seem as heavy as science says it should be.

And that extra weight could make a big difference in a billion years or so if the universe, currently expanding from the Big Bang, suddenly falls back in on itself. "Add in the extra weight of the neutrinos, and the total mass of the universe is near that critical point," says TIME science correspondent Mike Lemonick. "This a big discovery."

In the short term, the success of the Japanese experiment could change a few of physics' fundamental laws -- if the results hold up. "The concept of the massive neutrino has been proven -- and then disproven -- before," adds Lemonick. "But these guys are considered the best in the world, and their facility is considered the best in the world. And they're confident. So this is very credible."