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May 26, 2013

Seminar: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Joseph F. Mulligan Lecture
Neutrinos: History and their Role in Astrophysics
Diana Marcu

In 1930 beta decay - the process in which an electron is emitted from a radioactive nucleus - led to a “crisis”, an undetected new particle with zero mass that carries away the missing energy. Wolfgang Pauli suggested a “desperate remedy”: a new particle carrying away the missing energy. Enrico Fermi named the particle “neutrino”, Italian for “little neutral one”. Thus, an intense search for these mysterious particles began. Only in 1956 were neutrinos from a nuclear reactor first observed. In 1964 Ray Davis looked for solar neutrinos, and found fewer than theoretically expected. The solution to this “solar neutrino anomaly” was extreme since it involved reconsidering the Standard Model of particles, including whether or not neutrinos had mass. Now we know that neutrinos have an extremely small mass. They rarely interact with matter which makes them extremely hard to detect. I will present a detailed history of how neutrinos and their properties were discovered, along with the impact these discoveries have had on the physics community. I will also discuss the present work taking place on neutrino detections since they play an important role at the border of particle physics and astrophysics. Lastly, I will highlight some of the instrumentation and discoveries we can expect to see in the near future.

Location: Physics Bldg., Room 401