Super-Kamiokande has a new result out on a search for sterile neutrinos using atmospheric neutrinos. Not surprisingly, they find no evidence of sterile neutrinos. Sterile neutrinos are theorized neutrinos that don’t interact at all but still participate in oscillations, so evidence for them is typically from anomalous measurements in the oscillation probability compared to the standard 3-neutrino model.
Physics Today has a short article on the work that led to this year’s Nobel Prize. This isn’t something that I know very much about, so I’ll leave the explanation to them. A very short summary is that the development of blue LEDs took much longer than red and green and (not surprisingly) came down to finding the right materials and the right production techniques.
The winners of this year’s Nobel Prize in physics were announced a few hours ago. The prize went to three Japanese physicists for their work in developing blue LEDs, which apparently could have some nice properties in the future. I don’t think this was a very high profile topic that many people expected would win the prize. The committee mentions that this choice was motivated at least in part by the potential good LED technology could do in the future rather than basing the award on importance to physics research.
The announcements of this year’s Nobel Prizes have already begun. The physics prize is expected to be announced within the next day or so.
Slate has an article naming some women who they think would deserve a Nobel Prize in physics. The prize has only gone to men for the past 50 years. Among the people they mention are Vera Rubin, who pioneered the use of galaxy rotation curves to find one of the most important pieces of evidence for dark matter, and MIT professor Millie Dresselhaus. Realistically, Rubin likely won’t have much of a chance of winning until someone makes a definitive discovery of dark matter and even then, there are many people who might have a shot at a piece of a dark matter prize.
There are probably a lot of reasons why the prize has only gone to men for the last 50 years, but I would guess that they largely stem from the large gender imbalance within the field, particularly at higher level positions and among older physicists who are most likely to win the prize. Prizes often go to lab heads and PIs, who aren’t necessarily (and probably usually aren’t) the ones who actually do the most important parts of the work. According to the article, the fraction of women who get PhDs in physics in the US has increased about tenfold since the 60s (to 20%, which is still one of the lowest numbers in major academic fields). Similar increases have probably occurred in many other countries, so we may start seeing more women winning the prize as more women become PIs.
The liquid-argon time projection chamber experiment DarkSide-50 has release the first results from their 50 kg dark matter detector. Using atmospheric argon rather than some highly purified source of argon, they are able to obtain the best current dark matter limit using argon as the target material. The result isn’t as strong as the current leading limits, which use xenon, but this was likely expected. Encouragingly, the DarkSide ended up with a background-free measurement, which bodes well for the continued use of argon-based dark matter detectors. DarkSide is currently operating in the Gran Sasso laboratory (LNGS) in Italy, a deep underground facility where many low-background particle physics experiments are performed.
It looks like Oslo has now ended its bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics due to opposition to the plan by much of the population and the government. The main objections seem to be the exorbitant cost of running the Olympics and the increasingly ridiculous demands of the IOC. This leaves Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan as the sole remaining bids, which leaves the IOC with an interesting choice. It’s not clear if Kazakhstan is really capable of successfully holding the Olympics while Beijing reportedly does not have a great location or climate for the winter games. Now that Beijing is the only bid left that is definitely viable (though not ideal), I wonder if the Chinese government will use that as leverage to reign in the usual excesses of the IOC.