Winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics
Friday, November 20, 2015, 15:00 - 16:00
A Japanese scientist has just won a big prize for research into teeny, tiny sub-atomic particles--and he's coming to the club to explain why it matters. Takaaki Kajita won a share of this year's Nobel Prize in physics for leading a team that determined ephemeral particles called neutrinos have mass. In plain English he and his colleagues showed that neutrinos have a smidgen of weight. That smidgeon is so small scientists are still trying to figure out how to measure it. Several billion neutrinos will stream through your body as you read this notice. (Don't worry, only occasionally one of them will hit a sub-atomic particle in your body, and it won't cause any harm.)
Despite being so light, the discovery has had a weighty impact on what is called the Standard Model of physics, the theory that describes all known subatomic particles and their interactions. The Standard Model does not account for neutrinos with mass. Theorists are still scratching their heads over the discovery.
Exactly 13 years ago, Masatoshi Koshiba appeared at the club after winning the Nobel Prize for showing that neutrinos emanating from distant exploding stars could be detected here on earth. Even before that Nobel recognition, Koshiba's observation of neutrinos led the Japanese government to fund the construction of Super-Kamiokande, the immense detector buried in a mine in Gifu Prefecture that Kajita and his colleagues used to catch enough neutrinos to show that they have mass.
Come and hear Kajita explain their Nobel findings and what comes next for Japan's particle physicists.