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Nobel Prize for Physics Goes to Neutrino Physicists from Japan, Canada

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2015 to Takaaki Kajita from Japan for his Super-Kamiokande Collaboration, based at the University of Tokyo, Kashiwa, in Japan and Arthur B. McDonald from Sudbury Neutrino Observatory Collaboration, Queen’s University, Kingston, in Canada “for the discovery of neutrino oscillations, which shows that neutrinos have mass.”

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2015 said it "recognises Takaaki Kajita in Japan and Arthur B. McDonald in Canada, for their key contributions to the experiments which demonstrated that neutrinos change identities. This metamorphosis requires that neutrinos have mass. The discovery has changed our understanding of the innermost workings of matter and can prove crucial to our view of the universe."

Around the turn of the millennium, Takaaki Kajita presented the discovery that neutrinos from the atmosphere switch between two identities on their way to the Super-Kamiokande detector in Japan. Meanwhile, the research group in Canada led by Arthur B. McDonald could demonstrate that the neutrinos from the Sun were not disappearing on their way to Earth. Instead they were captured with a different identity when arriving to the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory.

A neutrino puzzle that physicists had wrestled with for decades had been resolved. Compared to theoretical calculations of the number of neutrinos, up to two thirds of the neutrinos were missing in measurements performed on Earth. Now, the two experiments discovered that the neutrinos had changed identities.

The discovery led to the far-reaching conclusion that neutrinos, which for a long time were considered massless, must have some mass, however small.

The discoveries rewarded with this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics have yielded crucial insights into the all but hidden world of neutrinos. After photons, the particles of light, neutrinos are the most numerous in the entire cosmos. The Earth is constantly bombarded by them, said the Nobel committee.

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