Science and Tech


Here's What The Neutrino Nobel Prize Was About

The Nobel Prize for physics went to Takaaki Kajita and Arthur McDonald for a major discovery about strange and exciting particles called neutrinos.
Posted at 7:28 PM, Oct 06, 2015

This year's Nobel Prize for physics is a bit of a head scratcher. The committee awarded the prize to two scientists, Takaaki Kajita of Japan and Arthur McDonald from Canada, for their work showing "that neutrinos change identities" and therefore "that neutrinos have mass." So what does that mean? (Videos via NHKCTV)

Neutrinos have pretty much toppled the Higgs boson as the most exciting particle at the moment. Physicists have known about neutrinos for decades, but unlike the Higgs, which turned out to be boringly predictable, neutrinos keep throwing out curveballs. (Videos via FermilabNASA)

For starters, it's impressive we even know they exist. They almost always sail through normal matter like it's not even there, and particle physicists seem to love making that personal. (Videos via SLAC National Accelerator LaboratoryFermilab)

It takes special detectors to find them. They're built on the idea that, if enough neutrinos go through the device, a couple dozen per day should bump into other particles, which would be detectable. (Videos via SNOLABNational Science Foundation / IceCube Collaboration)

Through those bumps, and a lot of math, physicists figured out that neutrinos come in three forms, or flavors. What Kajita and McDonald found is that a single neutrino can switch back and forth between flavors. And because of other math, if neutrinos can do that, they have to have mass.

Neutrinos having mass might not mean much to you and me, but to physicists it was an exciting find. The most up-to-date model of physics right now says neutrinos shouldn't have mass, which means something is wrong, which means more things to discover. (Video via National Science Foundation / IceCube Collaboration)

Expect to hear more about neutrinos over the next few years. If we can catch enough of them, they can teach us about the processes at work in the sun and other stars, and they may even help us solve some of the biggest mysteries in physics. (Videos via FermilabNASAWorld Science Festival)

This video includes images from Getty Images, Argonne National Laboratory and the National Science Foundation / IceCube Collaboration and Fermilab