March 31, 1994
Vol. 13, No. 14

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    Lectures on neutrinos: Science for non-scientists

    One of the most mysterious and elusive particles of nature will be the topic of "The Perplexing Story of the Neutrino," the spring series of Compton Lectures. The lectures will be presented by Nickolas Solomey, Research Associate in the Enrico Fermi Institute, at 11 a.m. Saturday mornings from April 2 through June 4 in Kersten 115.

    Neutrinos, which are almost immeasurably small, are among the most fundamental particles of nature. This month marks the 60th anniversary of their "discovery" by Enrico Fermi, then a young scientist in Europe, and Wolfgang Pauli, one of physics' elder statesmen. The pair hypothesized the neutrino's existence as the byproduct of nuclear decay and were proved correct in 1956, when the particle was finally detected.

    Scientists are still unsure of the neutrino's mass. Originally the particle was thought to have none at all, but some scientists now think that the collective mass of cosmic neutrinos may represent much of the missing dark matter in the universe.

    The first lecture in the series will explain what neutrinos are and why they continue to fascinate particle physicists. Later lectures will describe the elusive particle's interaction with other forms of matter and current attempts to measure its mass.

    "These lectures are designed to be historical in nature -- they will cover some 60 years of history -- but they describe a process of scientific discovery that isn't finished yet," Solomey said. "That's the beauty of it -- we know part of the story of the neutrino, but the end of the tale is something scientists are still working on."

    Solomey received his Ph.D. in physics in 1992 from the University of Geneva in Switzerland. He has worked at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN) and continues his research in particle physics at the Fermi Institute and the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

    The Arthur Holly Compton Lectures are now in their 18th year, with a new series sponsored each fall and spring by the Enrico Fermi Institute. The lectures, which are free and open to the public, are intended to make science accessible to a general audience and to convey the excitement of new discoveries in the physical sciences. For more information, call 702-7823.