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Shape-Shifting Particles and Underground Super Labs


Mon 5 Dec 2016, 7:30pm–9:00pm

Where: Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, Cnr Merivale and Glenelg Streets, South Bank, Queensland

Restrictions: All Ages

Ticket Information:

  • Admission: Free

Listed by: TheScienceNation

We live in a world of neutrinos. Thousands of billions of neutrinos—mostly created by the Sun—are flowing through your body every second. You cannot see them and you do not feel them; and they are very hard for scientists to measure.

Then, when scientists were finally able to catch them, there were fewer than they expected. But why? Was our Sun losing its power?

Join us on Monday 5 December for a free public lecture by the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics 2015, Professor Takaaki Kajita: the man credited with the discovery of neutrino oscillations, and the solution to this riddle.

His is a story of twists and turns, including gigantic underground laboratories, passionate conflicts over the nature of matter, and fears of the end of the world—culminating in science’s most prestigious prize and the unexpected conclusion that neutrinos have mass.

Kajita was the man in charge of two massive laboratories in Japan dedicated to capturing neutrinos. In vast pools of water deep underground, flashes of blue proved their existence. But something was awry—scientists only found half as many solar neutrinos as they expected. Was the Sun about to go out?

It was the riddle that made Kajita’s career. Together with Arthur B McDonald of Canada, Kajita discovered that neutrinos are shape-shifters that flip back and forth between different states, making some of them invisible to the detectors—hence the apparent lack of them. The Sun is burning nicely, after all.

The finding set to rest fears for life on Earth, and helped us to see the full picture of neutrinos—particles which still have a lot to tell us about supernovae, the working of stars, and the unresolved physics of dark matter.

On Monday night, Professor Takaaki Kajita will tell us his story, and talk a little about what comes next.

The talk will be followed by a panel discussion between Professor Takaaki Kajita, astrophysicist Prof Tamara Davis, and theoretical physicist Dr Yvonne Wang.

Professor Takaaki Kajita is from the Institute for Cosmic Ray Research of the University of Tokyo. He works in atmospheric neutrinos at Kamiokande and Super-Kamiokande, and working on the KAGRA gravitational wave project. He received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2015 for the discovery of neutrino oscillations.

Prof Tamara Davis is an astrophysicist in the School of Mathematics and Physics at the University of Queensland. She specialises in interpreting astrophysical observations in terms of their implications for fundamental physics. Her focus is on determining the nature of dark energy – the cause of the acceleration of the expansion of the universe.

Dr Yvonne Wong is a theoretical physicists and senior lecturer at the School of Physics, The University of New South Wales. Her research interests lie at the interface of cosmology and particle physics, especially neutrino physics.

This talk will be chaired by Prof Hans Bachor from Australian National University (ANU), and our thanks to the ANU for their support of this lecture.