Prize for electron-neutrino research
The Tokai to Kamioka (T2K) experiment in Japan, that involves Lancaster University particle physicists, has recently been awarded the prestigious "Le Prix La Recherche". The prize, awarded by the French journal "La Recherche", one of the top popular science journals in France, honours the top research in 2011 across all sciences based upon a criteria of scientific discovery and deepening understanding. T2K's 2011 paper on electron-neutrino appearance in a muon-neutrino beam was selected by a 10-member committee of experts from disparate science and technology fields including mathematics, archeology and physics. The prize follows an award by the journal "Physics World" at the end of last year, for which the same T2K research was listed as one of the top 10 breakthroughs in Physics in 2011.
T2K was built to measure the properties of neutrinos - fundamental particles which have the unusual property of being able to change from one type of neutrino to another as they travel almost unhindered through matter or space. T2K fired a beam of muon-neutrinos 300 km to a "far" detector, where some of the muon-neutrinos were found to have changed to electron-neutrinos. The beam first goes through a "near" detector in order to characterise the muon-neutrino beam, which allows for comparison with the beam detected by the far detector. Lancaster physicists played a large role in building, calibrating and monitoring the near detector and are now using the data to measure neutrino interaction cross-sections, or probabilities.
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