This is a question which bridges the gap between biology and physics... but I thought this was the best place to ask it.

I remember reading a while ago that it is thought that neutrinos may play a role in evolution. There are billions passing through our body every second, and a small proportion will interact with atoms in our body through colliding masses and/or the weak interaction. This encourages random mutations within DNA (I guess specifically reproductive DNA) that leads to random differences between generations - survival of the fittest then takes care of the rest.

Although this seems plausible, I can't seem to find any information to back it up. Has anyone heard of this effect? Would standard radioactive decay be enough to explain random mutations?


Short answer: mostly no.

Slightly longer answer: the interaction of neutrinos with the molecules of your body take several forms, but they all come down to ionizing dose. However, there are many larger sources of ionizing dose in your like. Things like the Potasium-40 in the food you eat, radon and Carbon-14 in the air you breath, cosmic rays, and on and on.

From the point of view of the experimental neutrino physicists the problem with neutrinos is that events in which they react in the detector are very rare compared to other kinds of events (which we call background). So we go to deep under-ground laboratories of various kinds to cut out some of the background, and use carefully selected low-background materials to build the detector and assiduously clean anything that needs to be put into the detector for calibration or what not. In other words, we go to a huge amount of effort to find the neutrino needle in the background haystack.

And the same situation applied in your cells.


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