Two scientists from Canada and Japan have won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics 2015 for opening “a new realm in particle physics”, the Nobel Prize committee says.
They have demonstrated that neutrinos – subatomic particles produced by the decay of radioactive elements – change identities and that they have mass. This discovery has changed the understanding of the innermost workings of matter and can prove crucial to the view of the Universe. “A few were created already in the Big Bang, others are constantly being created in various processes in space and on Earth – from exploding supernovas, the death of massive stars, to reactions in nuclear power plants and naturally occurring radioactive decays”. McDonald works at Queen’s University, in Kingston, Canada.
In a few hours, a team of academics in Stockholm will reveal to the world this year’s recipients of the Nobel Prize in physics. But if they would be transformed to muon-neutrinos or tau-neutrinos on their way to Earth, that would make the deficit of the captured electron-neutrinos understandable.
Takaaki Kajita from the University of Tokyo, Kashiwa in Japan presented the discovery that neutrinos from the atmosphere switch between two identities on their way to the Super-Kamiokande detector.
“A neutrino puzzle that physicists had wrestled with for decades had been resolved”, the Nobel body said. Compared to theoretical calculations of the number of neutrinos, up to two thirds of the neutrinos were missing in measurements performed on Earth.
Next, the researchers will aim to capture neutrino particles and examine their properties.
Intense activity is underway worldwide in order to understand more about the elusive particles.
On Monday, Tu Youyou of China, Irish-born American William Campbell, and Japan’s Satoshi Omura won the Nobel Medicine Prize for unlocking revolutionary treatments for malaria and roundworm, diseases that blight millions of lives. In the meantime, here’s our explainer from when we first learned of the phenomena.