Sunday, August 26, 2018

Neutrino Oscillation Domain

Well down the NameBio daily domain name sales report for August 1, 2018, the name attracted my attention. The domain sold for $240 Aug. 1, 2018  at DropCatch. So what is a neutrino oscillation, why would anyone want the domain name, and what is the history of the associated website?

Scientific Background

So what is with neutrino oscillations?

What we now call the neutrino was proposed by the great physicist Enrico Pauli in 1930 on the basis of theoretical arguments to explain observed radioactive beta decay.  At that time he actually referred to it as the neutron, since it is electrically neutral.  But when that name was claimed for the much more massive particle we now call the neutron, the name neutrino (means little neutral one) came to be used for the particle, which was experimentally proven in 1956.  You can read more of the interesting history here.

The neutrino comes in multiple types, the electron, tau and muon neutrino. There are three corresponding antimatter particles, bringing the total number of types of neutrinos to six. Conservation laws prescribe the type of neutrino that a nuclear reaction will produce.

When scientists used the energy output of the sun to predict the rate of nuclear reactions taking place in the core, they could predict how many should be produced and it was trivial to calculate the neutrino flux here at Earth. The number is huge - during the past second something like 100 trillion neutrinos passed through your body.

While neutrinos are challenging to detect because they go right through most material without interaction, clever experimental physicists have figured out how to detect a neutrino, with several major facilities developed around the world, included SNO (Sudbury Neutrino Observatory) here in Canada. The early results indicated a substantially lower flux of the predicted type of neutrino than predicted.  This was called the solar neutrino problem or paradox (see account here).

The puzzle might imply that the nuclear reactions in the core of the sun were at a lower rate, the sun had essentially slowed down for some reason.  Since it takes a long period for energy produced in the core to reach the outer layers of the sun, this would be possible.  Another possibility is that we simply misunderstand the nuclear reactions in some fundamental way.

But the answer that turned out to be right is that the neutrino, or some of them, can change from one type to another, and this is what explained the differences in flux observed.  There is excellent coverage of the history and science of neutrino oscillations on Wikipedia.

The Nobel Prize in Physics in 2015  was awarded jointly to Takaaki Kajita of the
Super-Kamiokande Collaboration in Japan and Arthur B. McDonald of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory Collaboration in Canada "for their key contributions to the experiments which demonstrated that neutrinos change identities."  You can read the Nobel Prize citation here,

History of the Site

The domain name has been registered since 2001, and has been web active since 2002 (note that its first registration whois data do not show this, but the web archive does, so I presume that it formally expired and its time was reset.)  The domain name has been used with a widely used and authoritative reference site with links to various articles, experiments, groups, etc. working in the neutrino oscillation field.  For example, below is a screen capture of how the site looked in 2004, obtained courtesy of the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.

It was maintained by a scientific researcher at Argonne National Lab. The site was widely used in the early years, even winning a hot pick award from Science Magazine back in 1998.  The activity on the site waned somewhat for a period, but by 2017 it was still essentially serving the same role, but with a refreshed visual look, as shown in the archive capture from 2017.

Closing Thoughts

Up to the time of posting I was not able to get confirmation from those buying or selling the domain name regarding future plans. Since it sold on DropCatch, it is likely that the domain name was simply allowed to lapse, hopefully deliberately. The domain name does not currently resolve (as of late August 2018 at least).  I think it has been held by someone other than the original owners for the past year. My guess is that the site had a sufficient number of backlinks that someone thought that at this price it would generate enough revenue through monetized parking to make the $240 purchase price sensible. I guess we will see if that turns out, although I personally would be doubtful with such a specialized term. Another possibility is that the new owner is associated with the scientific field, and has plans to re-establish a site in its historical tradition.

While the users of the site over many years will be disappointed by the end of an authoritative and useful reference site,  most reference sites eventually come to the end of their life, either because those who maintained them have moved on to other things, or because demand for the service has diminished. Perhaps, now that the solar neutrino mystery has been largely solved, and a Nobel Prize  awarded for the work, it was felt that this was a good time to move on to other efforts. Nevertheless, the scientific community should express thanks to those who maintained the site over so many years.

Like this post?  You might also be interested in our examination of the sale of the domain name.


Original post Aug 26, 2018.

Fine Print

This post is offered for informational and educational purposes only, and should not be considered domain name investment advice. While an attempt has been made to be accurate, there is no implied or explicit warranty, and you are responsible for verifying any information of importance to you.

I try to be fair, balanced and objective in my analysis.  If you feel this post does not meet that standard, please express your concerns to me.  As disclosure, I do have a domain portfolio that is predominantly ngTLD domain names, although I do also own a number of .com, .ca, .co and a few other country code extension domains..

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