Nobel Prize awarded for Neutrino Oscillations
I love neutrinos. I’ve written about them over and over and over again because they’re super fascinating and we’re only starting to uncover their secrets. So naturally I’m psyched that the physics Nobel Prize this year was awarded to two scientists that theorized neutrino oscillation:
The 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded this morning to two physicists whose teams discovered a fundamental property of neutrinos.
Neutrinos come in three types: electron, muon and tau. In the 1960s, scientists on an experiment studying neutrinos from the sun found that they were detecting only a third the number of particles they expected to see. This was called the “solar neutrino problem.”
Physicists speculated that the problem lay in their calculations or in the experiment. But Kajita’s and McDonald’s experiments showed that the solar neutrino problem was caused by the extraordinary nature of neutrinos.
Because neutrinos can travel straight through the planet, Super-Kamiokande studied the particles as they approached from above in space and also below through the ground. The neutrinos should have arrived from all directions at the same rate; the only difference between them was the distance they had to travel before they reached the detector.
But scientists found that they detected more muon neutrinos coming from above than from below. They hypothesized that the neutrinos traveling all the way through the Earth had had more time to oscillate, or change to another type of neutrino.