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Research Showing Neutrinos Have Mass Awarded Nobel Prize

Looks like John Updike’s poem about neutrinos being mass-less objects, “Cosmic Gall,” might need an update.

Takaaki Kajita of Japan and Arthur McDonald of Canada have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery that the subatomic particles called neutrinos do have mass. Scientists have called this a historic and major discovery.

Michael Turner, director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago, tells Here & Nows Jeremy Hobson how this discovery has changed scientists’ understanding of the universe.

“The universe has so many neutrinos that they contribute as much to the mass budget of the universe as do the stars we see in the sky,” Turner said.

He says the neutrino, which he affectionately calls a “lightweight,” may be able to tell us about the origins of matter.

“The atoms that you and I are made out of, we believe that neutrinos in the early universe had a role in creating the ordinary matter that we’re made out of,” Turner said.

Correction: After our interview aired, Professor Turner sent us this correction:  “It is now four Nobels for the neutrino:  1988 for the discovery of the muon neutrino; 1995 for the discovery of the neutrino itself; 2002 for solar and supernova neutrinos; and 2015 for neutrino mass.  What a particle!”

Guest

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Takaaki Kajita, a professor at the University of Tokyo Institute for Cosmic Ray Research smiles at a press conference after it was announced he had won the Nobel Physics Prize at the University of Tokyo on October 6, 2015, for resolving a mystery with co-winner Arthur McDonald of Canada about neutrinos, a fundamental but enigmatic particle. The pair were honored for work that helped determine that neutrinos have mass, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said.  (Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images)
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Takaaki Kajita, a professor at the University of Tokyo Institute for Cosmic Ray Research smiles at a press conference after it was announced he had won the Nobel Physics Prize at the University of Tokyo on October 6, 2015, for resolving a mystery with co-winner Arthur McDonald of Canada about neutrinos, a fundamental but enigmatic particle. The pair were honored for work that helped determine that neutrinos have mass, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said. (Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images)