Applications of Parity Violation in the Weak Nuclear Force

Dr. Dustin McNulty
Department of Physics

Idaho State University


In the late 1950's, the discovery of parity violation in Weak interactions traumatized the scientific community but provided a pivotal clue to our understanding of the weak-nuclear force.  This unique feature of the weak interaction--that it does not look as it should in the mirror laboratory--governed the form of its interaction potential and eventually led scientists to the Standard Model picture of the Weak force.  Since no other forces in nature exhibit this spacial symmetry violation, experimentalists can isolate and study the force by searching for this violation signature.  Today, the weak and electromagnetic forces are the best understood forces in nature, and are now used as tools to understand the structure of nuclear matter.  Specifically, ISU is involved with several experiments that apply these tools to understand the structure of neutron rich, complex nuclei such as lead-208 and calcium-48.  In addition, the combination of high theoretical and experimental precision in the “Electro-Weak” force sector, allows experimentalists to search for disagreements (between theory and experiment) which could indicate possible physics beyond our Standard Model understanding.  Following an introduction to parity violation and the development of weak-nuclear theory, I will discuss three future experiments at Jefferson Laboratory (PREX-II, CREX, and MOLLER) and the research we conduct at ISU in support of these experiments.