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Neutrinos’ identity shift snares physics Nobel

Elusive particles must have mass, measurements in Japan, Canada showed

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4:35pm, October 6, 2015
McDonald and Kajita

NEUTRINO NOBEL  Arthur McDonald (left) and Takaaki Kajita shared the Nobel Prize in physics for the discovery that neutrinos oscillate between different types, which demonstrates that the particles have mass.

Capturing the identity-shifting behavior of neutrinos has won Takaaki Kajita of the University of Tokyo and Arthur McDonald of Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, the 2015 Nobel Prize in physics. The scientists spearheaded giant underground experiments that revealed that the elusive particles morph from one variety into another. Those crucial findings demonstrated that neutrinos have mass, which confirmed many physicists’ suspicions but defies the standard model, the framework that predicts the properties of nature’s particles and forces.

“It’s incredibly exciting,” says Janet Conrad, a neutrino physicist at MIT. “I had been waiting for this for so many years.” Neutrino mass, though minuscule for individual particles, could have major implications for improving the standard model and understanding the evolution of the cosmos.

The neutrino has carried a mysterious allure since

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