The Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to Takaaki Kajita in Japan and Arthur B. McDonald in Canada for their key contributions to the experiments that demonstrated that neutrinos change identities, and therefore have mass.

The announcement follows on from our article yesterday about Japanese scientist Satoshi Omura sharing this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine.

The Nobel Prize website elaborates on the gravitas of their discovery: “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.”

In the world of particle physics this was an historic discovery: “This discovery has 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.”

“Many neutrinos are created in reactions between cosmic radiation and the Earth’s atmosphere. Others are produced in nuclear reactions inside the Sun. Thousands of billions of neutrinos are streaming through our bodies each second. Hardly anything can stop them passing; neutrinos are nature’s most elusive elementary particles.”

“Now the experiments continue and intense activity is underway worldwide in order to capture neutrinos and examine their properties. New discoveries about their deepest secrets are expected to change our current understanding of the history, structure and future fate of the universe.”

As reported by the Guardian, Kajita was extraordinarily humble in his remarks at a press conference in Tokyo. The researcher from the University of Tokyo evinced a similar sense of respect for the subject of his study that Omura did the day before. Kajita said, “I want to thank the neutrinos, of course. And since neutrinos are created by cosmic rays, I want to thank them, too.”

Read more about the announcement here.

–Chris Zajko

Image: Popular Science