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Fermilab Scientists Confirm Neutrino Oscillation Observation


Scientists working on the NOvA experiment at Fermilab have discovered the first evidence of oscillating neutrinos.

Neutrino oscillation, which was first predicted back in 1957 by Bruno Pontecorvo, is a quantum mechanical phenomenon in which a neutrino created with a specific lepton flavor can later be seen with a different flavor. The observation of such a phenomenon implies that a neutrino has a non-zero mass, a notion which is of particular theoretical and experimental interest to scientists as it wasn’t included in the original Standard Model of particle physics.

What makes neutrinos — the most abundant massive particle in the universe — particularly fascinating is their ability to pass through matter as if it wasn’t even there.

Peter Shanahan, a Fermilab spokesperson, was quoted in a Fermilab press release as having said that folks “are ecstatic to see our first observation of neutrino oscillations” and that “it’s beyond gratifying” for all the people who have contributed to the experiment.

People are ecstatic to see our first observation of neutrino oscillations (…) For all the people who worked over the course of a decade on the designing, building, commissioning and operating this experiment, it’s beyond gratifying.

In order to observe the oscillations, researchers at Fermilab generated a neutrino beam primarily composed of muon neutrinos. They then measured the beam’s neutrino composition with an underground near detector before sending the particles 500 miles straight through the Earth with their particle accelerator, an accelerator which sends trillions of neutrinos to Minnesota roughly every second.

On the other side, a NOvA detector is used to detect signature trails of particles and light produced when neutrinos bump into atoms.

The NOvA collaboration stretches 39 institutions across the United States, India, Russia, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Greece and the Czech Republic. In total, there are 210 scientists and engineers involved in the experiment.

In other news, researchers at Princeton University who set out to settle the debate on whether the Hall Effect exists for frustrated magnets have observed the effect in a non-magnetic material.

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