Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The GSI Anomaly

The GSI anomaly
Recently, an experiment at GSI Darmstadt has observed oscillating decay rates of heavy ions. Several controversial attempts have been made to explain this effect in terms of neutrino mixing. We briefly describe the experimental results, give an overview of the literature, and show that the effect cannot be due to neutrino mixing. If the effect survives, it could, however, be explained by hypothetical internal excitations of the mother ions (~ 10^(-15) eV).

Why a splitting in the final state cannot explain the GSI-Oscillations
In this paper, I give a pedagogical discussion of the GSI anomaly. Using two different formulations, namely the intuitive Quantum Field Theory language of the second quantized picture as well as the language of amplitudes, I clear up the analogies and differences between the GSI anomaly and other processes (the Double Slit experiment using photons, $e^+ e^- \to \mu^+ \mu^-$ scattering, and charged pion decay). In both formulations, the conclusion is reached that the decay rate measured at GSI cannot oscillate if only Standard Model physics is involved and the initial hydrogen-like ion is no coherent superposition of more than one state (in case there is no new, yet unknown, mechanism at work). Furthermore, a discussion of the Quantum Beat phenomenon will be given, which is often assumed to be able to cause the observed oscillations. This is, however, not possible for a splitting in the final state only.

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