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Nobel Prize for Physics Awarded to Scientists Who Made Startling Neutrino Discovery

First Posted: Oct 06, 2015 11:43 AM EDT

The Nobel Prize in Physics for 2015 has officially been awarded to Takaaki Kajita and Arthur B. McDonald for their key contributions to the experiments which have demonstrated that neutrinos change density. The new findings have actually changed our understanding of the innermost workings of matter and are crucial to our view of the universe.

While Kajita found that neutrinos from the atmosphere switch between two identities on their way to the Super-Kamiokande detector in Japan, McDonald could demonstrate that the neutrinos from the sun were not disappearing on their way to Earth; instead, they were being captured with a different identity when arriving at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory.

So what does this mean? For a long time, neutrinos were considered to be massless. However, this latest finding shows that neutrinos actually do have some mass, however small.

This is a historic discovery for particle physics. The Standard Model actually relies on neutrinos being massless. The fact that neutrinos aren't massless shows that the Standard Model cannot be the complete theory of the fundamental constituents of the universe.

Many neutrinos are created in reactions between cosmic radiation and Earth's atmosphere. Others are produced in nuclear reactions inside the sun. Thousands of billions of neutrinos are streaming through our bodies each second.

Now, researchers know a bit more about these mysterious particles, and experiments will continue. Scientists hope to capture neutrinos and examine their properties in order to refine our understanding about the history, structure, and the future fate of our universe.

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