Discovering the Electro-Weak Force, Seeing a Supernova Explode, Peering Inside the Sun, and Watching Neutrinos Oscillate…

Dr. Lawrence Sulak
Department of Physics
Boston University


Cosmological hypotheses and oracular dreams of grandly unifying all the forces of nature once foretold that neutrinos might weigh a little bit, that those elusive particles could blow up stars, and that protons (and your ashes) would transform into light after 1029 years.  Indeed, that you can live to 100 without dying of the radioactivity in your bones proves that nucleons survive for at least 1026 years…far longer than the big-bang light in the sky dating our universe to a mere 1010 years. 

Testing unification theories demanded new technologies optimized to search for ultra-rare interactions.  The detectors would need fast, isochronous, single photoelectron light sensors; N2 calibration lasers; reverse osmosis water; and fast, inexpensive waveform digitizers…ushering in an era of massive, totally active, Cherenkov ring-imaging calorimeters.  Successor experiments morphed the target medium of the pioneering detector (ultrapure water) into heavy water, seawater, solid water, and even clear and scintillating oil.  The neutrino sources of that seminal experiment -- the atmosphere and Supernova 1987a -- evolved to include near and far accelerators, our sun, and nuclear reactors.

I will relate the demise of the simplest grand unifying theories while tracing the tortuous path from a deficit of atmospheric neutrinos to a definitive observation of neutrino mass…now enabling the soaring dreams of tomorrow:  unraveling the source of CP violation and hypothesizing the lepto-genesis of the cosmos.