Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Neutrino Bomb in Voltes V: More Science Than Fiction?

Given that Bozanian science and technology is supposedly a few centuries more advanced than ours, is the Neutrino Bomb used in the Voltes V series finale based more on science fact than on science fiction?

By: Ringo Bones

If you’re a die-hard Voltes V fan who just have more than a passing interest on the latest happenings on cutting-edge theoretical physics, chances are you’ve already noticed that the Bozanian science and technology often featured in this 1970s era Anime is very reminiscent of the work of physicists Abdus Salam and Steven Weinberg on the Electroweak Unification that won them the 1979 Nobel Physics Prize. And if you are fortunate enough to finish watching the entire series, chances are you’ve seen the Neutrino Bomb that almost destroyed planet Earth. But is a workable / practical Neutrino Bomb more than science fiction?

If you have a more than passing interest in astronomy – especially astrophysics – chances are you probably knew by now that 99% of a supernova explosion’s energy is emitted in the form of neutrinos. And given a sufficiently advanced alien civilization whose science and technology is a few centuries ahead of us already has the nuts and bolts to figure out in mimicking such destructive celestial phenomena. Which is a paradox since neutrinos barely interact with regular matter and they can only be “seen” via heavy-water based detectors when they emit Cherenkov Radiation – a glow of mostly ultraviolet light.

The faint bluish light named after Soviet era physicists Pavel Cherenkov was first observed by him and his team back in 1934 when water emitted a bluish glow when exposed to high-speed gamma radiation. The Cherenkov Effect or Cherenkov Radiation as it is often called in scientific literature, is the emission of light waves by electrons or other charged particles – even weakly interacting ones like neutrinos – when they move in a medium at a speed greater than that of light in the same medium. The effect is somewhat analogous to the formation of acoustic shock waves by a projectile moving in air at a speed greater than that of sound. In both cases, the speed of the object traveling through a medium exceeds that of the resulting wave disturbance in the medium.