The seesaw mechanism is a theoretical model of neutrino masses that has the side benefit of (arguably) naturally explaining why neutrinos are so much lighter than the other massive Standard Model particles. It involves adding heavy "sterile neutrinos" with Majorana masses on the order of the GUT scale. The seesaw mechanism predicts that (for one lepton generation) the geometric mean of the light and heavy neutrino masses should "naturally" be on the order of the other Standard Model particle masses (the story is similar for multiple lepton generations). This prediction seems to be experimentally plausible based on the estimates of the (light) neutrino masses that come from neutrino oscillations and other observations.
The seesaw mechanism also predicts the violation of conservation of total lepton number. The clearest experimental signature of this violation is believed to be the process of neutrinoless double beta decay. Many experiments have tried to detect NDBD, but so far none have succeeded (to the physics community's standards of quality and reproducibility).
- What is the order of magnitude of the quantitative rate of NDBD predicted by the seesaw mechanism (with the sterile neutrino Majorana masses on the GUT scale)? (I know there are different variations of the seesaw mechanism, but presumably they all agree to within a few orders of magnitude.)
- What is the upper limit on the NDBD rate that hasn't been ruled out by experiment?
I'm curious how these two values compare. Which of these statements is the best summary of the current situation?
A. The seesaw mechanism (with "natural" values for the heavy Majorana masses) predicts NDBD rates that are clearly higher than our current experimental limits. The "natural" seesaw mechanism is in trouble.
B. The seesaw mechanism predicts NDBD rates that are much lower than the current and foreseeable experimental capabilities to detect. We won't be able to confirm or reject the "natural" seesaw mechanism for many years, if ever.
C. The seesaw mechanism predicts NDBD rates that are at or only slightly below our current experimental capabilities to detect. We could plausibly detect it in the near future. (It should be noted that research physicists have a personal incentive to exaggerate the likelihood of this scenario.)
D. The "natural" seesaw mechanism has so many unknowns and so much wiggle room that it can't even nail down the NDBD rate to within a few orders of magnitude. The theory therefore doesn't have much explanatory power, and can at best only give retrodictive explanations rather than predictions.
(Note: the active neutrino masses, and therefore the NDBD rate, can be pushed down arbitrarily low by making the sterile neutrinos sufficiently heavy. But this doesn't solve the neutrino mass hierarchy problem; it simply shifts the question of why the active neutrinos are so light to the question of why the sterile neutrinos are so heavy. In order to preserve naturalness, you need the sterile neutrino masses to be on the same scale as the other large energy scale in the Standard Model - the GUT scale.)