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Discovery of neutrino mass earns 2015 physics Nobel

interior of Super-Kamiokande detector

Experiments probing the secrets of neutrinos, including at the Super-Kamiokande detector in Japan (shown), earned the 2015 Nobel Prize in physics.

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The discovery that subatomic particles called neutrinos have mass 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 led two sophisticated experiments that found that the elusive particles can morph from one variety into another — a phenomenon that can occur only if neutrinos have mass. The discovery delivered a jolt to particle physics because prevailing theories had predicted that neutrinos were massless.

Physicists knew there are three types of neutrinos: muon, electron and tau. But in 1998, Kajita and his team at the Super-Kamiokande experiment found evidence that neutrinos produced in Earth’s atmosphere switched identities before striking the detector, located under a Japanese mountain. Three years later, McDonald’s Sudbury Neutrino Observatory collaboration discovered that some neutrinos emitted by the sun change flavors en route to Earth.

Today physicists around the world are working to identify the particles’ exact masses and understand neutrinos’ importance throughout the history of the universe.

A full story on the work that earned the physics Nobel will follow later today.

Plants,, Animals,, Biophysics

Raindrops help pitcher plants trap dinner

By Sarah Schwartz 3:00pm, October 5, 2015
Pitcher plants use the force of falling raindrops to fling prey into their traps.
Plants,, Animals

Stinky seeds dupe dung beetles

By Sarah Schwartz 11:00am, October 5, 2015
Seeds that look and smell like animal poop can trick dung beetles into spreading and burying the seeds.
Health,, Biomedicine

Therapies against roundworm, malaria parasites win medicine Nobel

By Tina Hesman Saey 6:16am, October 5, 2015
The 2015 Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology was awarded to Youyou Tu for her work in counteracting malaria, and to William Campbell and Satoshi Omura for work on treatments against roundworm parasites.
Biomedicine,, Health

Sperm protein may offer target for male contraceptive

By Meghan Rosen 5:24pm, October 1, 2015
With the identification of a new sperm protein that helps sperm penetrate eggs, researchers may be closer to developing birth control pills for men.

Kavli Foundation gives more money for the brain

By Laura Sanders 5:01pm, October 1, 2015
The Kavli Foundation will provide $100 million toward solving the mysteries of the brain.

This may be the world's tiniest snail

By Helen Thompson 3:58pm, September 30, 2015
Tiny snail unearthed in China could be the world's smallest, researchers report.
Animals,, Biophysics

Some bats chug nectar with conveyor belt tongues

By Helen Thompson 6:30am, September 29, 2015
Grooved bat tongues work like escalators or conveyor belts, transporting nectar from tip to mouth.
Planetary Science

Salt streaks sign of present-day water flows on Mars

By Christopher Crockett 11:00am, September 28, 2015
Salt deposits on Mars hint at contemporary seasonal water flows on the Red Planet.
Animals,, Microbes

Don't judge a whale's gut microbiome by diet alone

By Helen Thompson 2:30pm, September 25, 2015
Evolutionary history and diet may both determine the microbes that live in a baleen whale's stomach, researchers report.
Anthropology,, Human Evolution

Ancient hominid ears were tuned to high frequencies

By Bruce Bower 2:00pm, September 25, 2015
Two ancient hominid species may have heard high-frequency sounds especially well.
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