'One of the greatest mysteries in the Universe' nearer solution
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An international experiment investigating one of the biggest mysteries in fundamental physics - why the amount of matter greatly exceeds the amount of antimatter in the Universe - has made a leap forward.
Lancaster University is one of eight UK partners involved in a global scientific collaboration called the T2K experiment based in Japan.
T2K studies a high intensity particle beam that travels deep underground from the east to the west coast of Japan. The beam is made up of neutrinos, which are among the fundamental constituents of the Universe. A 'near' detector positioned close to the source of the neutrino beam is used to investigate the initial composition of the beam, whilst a huge 'far' detector samples the beam about 185 miles downstream.
There are three types of neutrinos - the electron neutrino, the muon neutrino and the tau neutrino. These different "flavours" of neutrinos can spontaneously change into each other, a phenomenon called neutrino oscillation.
Now scientists have found final confirmation of a new type of neutrino oscillation from the muon type to the electron type. First observed in 2011 with marginal statistical significance, scientists have since collected 3.5 times more data and are now almost 100 per cent certain that they have witnessed the new oscillation.
This T2K observation is the first of its kind in that an explicit appearance of a unique flavour of neutrino at a detection point (the 'far' detector) is unequivocally observed from a different flavour of neutrino at its production point (the 'near' detector).
Professor Peter Ratoff, head of Physics at Lancaster University said: "This is an important step on the road to a much greater discovery - the reason why there is much more matter than antimatter in the Universe. Neutrinos may have been instrumental soon after the Big Bang in facilitating a preference for the production of matter over antimatter without which the Universe as we know it would not exist."
Measuring a difference in the rate of neutrino and antineutrino oscillations would provide evidence of charge parity (CP) violation in the behaviour of neutrinos. CP violation has thus far only been observed in quarks (for which Nobel prizes were awarded in 1980 and 2008).
CP violation by neutrinos in the very early Universe may be one of the key reasons that the observable Universe today is dominated by matter, with no significant amount of antimatter - which is one of the most profound mysteries in science.
Professor Ratoff said: "We have firmly established this form of neutrino oscillation, so a successful search for CP violation in neutrinos may become feasible in the coming years."
T2K is led by Japan and partly funded by the UK's Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). Part of the 'near' detector was built and calibrated at Lancaster by a large team of staff, technicians, PhD students and researchers managed by Dr Laura Kormos. Lancaster physicists are also involved in analysing the data collected with the 'near' detector.
Fri 19 July 2013
School of Computing and Communications computer scientists are at the forefront of a UK-wide BBC initiative launched on March 12th to inspire a new generation to get creative with coding, programming and digital technology.
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Tue 31 March 2015
A Faculty team representing science, technology, engineering and maths took part in EDF Energy's 'Science Day' on Saturday 21st March at Heysham Power Station.
Wed 25 March 2015
Professor Roger Jones has replaced Professor Peter Ratoff as Head of the Physics Department. Roger gained a PhD studying neutrino interactions at CERN and Fermilab before starting his career at CERN working at the Large Electron-Positron (LEP) Collider.
Tue 24 March 2015
As part of British Science week, 170 students from 14 schools across the region came to Lancaster University on Wednesday 18th March to compete in science, technology, engineering and mathematics challenges.
Mon 23 March 2015