CHICAGO (CBS) — Scientists at Fermilab on Tuesday were celebrating the Nobel Prize awarded to two fellow physicists for their work on neutrinos, subatomic particles which are notoriously difficult to study.
Fermilab scientist Debbie Harris said the Nobel Prize awarded to Japanese physicist Takaaki Kajita and Canadian physicist Arthur B. McDonald helps validate the work she and others are doing on neutrinos at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Batavia.
“Oh, it’s great. It’s a great shot in the arm.,” she said.
Fermilab has two beams Harris and other physicists use for a number of experiments on neutrinos, which she described as elusive particles, with almost no mass, and which almost never interact with anything else, making it very challenging to study them.
“The next big steps in this field are trying to … not just study very precisely how these transitions happen, but trying to study if neutrinos will change flavors at the same rate as anti-neutrinos,” she said.
As for practical applications for their work, Harris said neutrino detectors could be used to monitor nuclear facilities, to make sure no one has taken any enriched materials that are supposed to be there.