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This year's Nobel Prize in Physics


The Nobel Prize went to two physicists honored for the discovery that neutrinos have mass.

Their discovery was a major contribution to what is now known as the "standard model" of the elementary particles. Until their turn-of-the-millennium work, the widely shared opinion was that neutrinos (like photons) don't have mass. This consensus had led -- don't ask me why-- to a further consensus on how many of them ought to be detectable on earth. And that, in turn led to some confusion because the quantities actually detected were much smaller than what they 'should' be.

So these are experimenters who managed to clear up a split between other experimenters and theorists. The theory had to be revised so that the experimental results, the actual quantity detected, could be accommodated, and their work showed how that could be done.  A victory for pragmatism in science, the hospitable homeland of pragmatism.

I enjoy this time of year for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that this is the time of the announcement of all the Nobels, when we get to read and think about issues we ordinarily wouldn't, and get updated on the names of the giants in the various fields.

As regulars here know, I regularly mine the awards for at least a couple of blog entries every year.

So: the physicists in question are:  Takaaki Kajita of Japan and Arthur McDonald of Canada  They've followed the usual, "shucks folks, do they mean me?" script. Kajita told a news conference is Japan, "I'm still so shocked I don't really know what to say."

Well, I know what to say. A hearty congratulations to you both.


Not worth a post of its own, but something I can't help mentioning -- the prize committee seems to have been split between two different candidates for the Medicine Prize this year, which would explain why the Chemistry Prize ended up going to the development of therapy-oriented genetics. Two Medicine awards, so to speak.

And I'll say something about the Peace Prize later this month.


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