Frederick Reines and the Detection of the Neutrino

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‘[Frederick] Reines – known among scientists as the "father of neutrino physics" – won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1995 ["for the detection of the neutrino"], nearly 40 years after his neutrino experiments changed the world of physics and set in motion a new way of looking at the universe. ...

Frederick Reines
Courtesy
University of California Irvine

Until Reines's discovery, physicists had only theorized the existence of the neutrino – and physicists believed the tiny particles would never be detected. Reines's research laid the groundwork for new avenues of physics inquiry and hundreds of physics experiments that have tested central theories about the structure of our cosmos. The neutrino is one of the tiny spinning particles that are the building blocks of nature. ...

[In 1944 Reines] was recruited to work on the Manhattan Project at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Over 15 years at Los Alamos, he helped conduct a number of bomb tests in the South Pacific and Nevada, striving to understand the effects of nuclear blasts. In 1958, he was a delegate to the Atoms for Peace conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

But during the same time period, he carefully considered which puzzles of physics he would devote himself to pursuing – and decided on the elusive neutrino. In 1951, he joined with the late Los Alamos scientist Clyde Cowan Jr. to search for the particle. After a few tests at the nuclear facility in Hanford, Wash., the two men moved to the Savannah River reactor in South Carolina. They proved the existence of the neutrino in 1956.'

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