Ottawa – The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory Collaboration, including members from Carleton University, have shared the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics.
The award was presented by the Breakthrough Prize Foundation “for the fundamental discovery of neutrino oscillations, revealing a new frontier beyond, and possibly far beyond, the standard model of particle physics.”
The $3-million prize is shared with four other international experimental collaborations studying neutrino oscillations: the Superkamiokande, Kamland, T2K/K2K, and Daya Bay.
Research at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory – two kilometres underground in Vale’s Creighton mine near Sudbury, Ont., demonstrated that neutrinos change their type – or flavour – on their way to Earth from the sun, a discovery that requires neutrinos to have a mass greater than zero. The results also confirmed the theories of energy generation in the sun with great accuracy.
“Our collaboration members are very pleased to receive this testimony to the scientific significance of their work,’’ said Prof. Art McDonald, SNO project director. “Our findings are a result of many years of hard work starting in 1984 when our collaboration began with 16 collaborators, led by co-spokesmen Prof. George Ewan of Queen’s University and Prof. Herb Chen of the University of California, Irvine, who were joined in 1985 by Prof. David Sinclair of Oxford University. Our international collaboration grew substantially and provided an exciting education for many young scientists over more than 20 years. Our full scientific author list includes over 270 scientists sharing this prize.”
Said David Sinclair, SNO associate director (Science): “The discovery by SNO and the other recognized projects, that neutrinos posses mass and change their ‘flavour,’ has had a huge impact on our understanding of physics from the smallest scales of simple particles to the universe itself. This has led to new fundamental questions that are now being investigated at SNOLAB and other underground facilities. Carleton scientists continue to play leading roles in these investigations at the frontiers of science.”
“We have known for a long time that the sun shines as the result of the fusion of hydrogen nuclei,’’ added Prof. Alain Bellerive. “It is impossible, however, to study in real-time these complex nuclear reactions by observing the light emitted by our sun. Neutrinos are a way, however, of working backwards. If we can measure how many neutrinos are produced per second, then we can confirm that the Solar Standard Model developed by physicists describes precisely how elementary particles interact with each other and hold our subatomic world together.”
The award was presented at a ceremony at the NASA Ames Research Centre in Moffett Field, California. The ceremony, hosted by comedian Seth Macfarlane, was broadcast live in the United States on National Geographic Channel, with a one-hour version of the broadcast scheduled for Fox on Nov. 29 at 7 p.m.
Founded by Russian entrepreneur, venture capitalist and physicist, Yuri Milner, the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics recognizes individuals who have made profound contributions to human knowledge. It is open to all physicists — theoretical, mathematical and experimental — working on the deepest mysteries of the universe. The prize is one of three awarded by the Breakthrough Foundation for “Outstanding contributions in Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics, and Mathematics.”
Realization of a project like SNO requires many scientific and engineering advances. Sinclair moved to Carleton University in 1989, taking up the roles of the SNO Deputy Director and Associate Director (Science). Together with Cliff Hargrove, he led a team of scientists, students and engineers in the development of new techniques to purify 1,000 tons of heavy water to levels a million times lower than had been achieved previously. This was an essential criterion for the success of SNO. The team was joined by Bellerive and Richard Hemmingway. Their speciality was the complex analysis of SNO data to extract all the possible physics from it and to do so with great precision. A total of more than 30 scientists, engineers, students and technologists contributed to make Carleton’s role in SNO important and successful.
Media Relations Officer
613-520-2600 ext. 8718