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Physics World names neutrino work one of the top ten breakthroughs of 2015

Researchers recognized for detecting energy from single electron for first time

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December 11, 2015 Share This!

  • This spectrogram shows the first electron detected by the Project 8 collaboration, an achievement that earned a spot in Physics World's Top 10 Breakthroughs of the Year.

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RICHLAND, Wash. — What is the energy of a single electron whirling? Physics World, the magazine published by the U.K.'s Institute of Physics, has named work that answers this question one of the top ten breakthroughs of 2015. The collaboration that made this discovery, called Project 8, contains over 20 members and spans many institutions.

Precisely measuring the energy of single electrons by detecting their so-called cyclotron radiation will allow researchers to determine the mass of the neutrino, a subatomic particle known to weigh something but not very much. The finding that it weighs something rather than nothing at all received the Nobel Prize in Physics this year, work led by the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory in Canada.

Physicist Brent VanDevender, one of the Project 8 collaborators and based at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, said, "It's gratifying and relieving to receive this recognition."

Gratifying because it's an important discovery. Relieving because so many people have worked so hard and so long on Project 8, and the process of science doesn't always reward hard work.

The two dozen or so team members on Project 8—so called because physicists sometimes give their experiments cryptic names, inadvertently reflecting the mysteriousness of the universe they're trying to work out—include researchers from PNNL, the University of Washington, where the experiment is based, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California, Santa Barbara and Yale University.

Read more about Physics World's Top Ten Breakthroughs here.

This work was supported by the Department of Energy Office of Science.

Tags: Fundamental Science, Physics

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