Arthur B. McDonald and the SNO Collaboration
2016 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics
For the fundamental discovery and exploration of neutrino oscillations, revealing a new frontier beyond, and possibly far beyond, the Standard Model of particle physics.
Sixty-five billion neutrinos pass through every square centimeter of your body every second, but since they are invisible and pass right through the Earth with scarcely any impacts, they are very hard to detect and study. Arthur McDonald and the SNO experiment in Canada demonstrated that neutrinos coming from the sun “oscillate”, or spontaneously transform into different types. This has major implications for our understanding of the Standard Model of particle physics and perhaps the evolution of the Universe.
This prize is the result of very hard work by an extremely skilled team of hundreds of scientists and technical people who made the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory a success. We started the project in 1984 with a 16-member collaboration, led by founding spokespersons Herb Chen of UC Irvine and George Ewan of Queen’s University, and went on to uncover very basic properties of electron neutrinos and the sun. I have been extremely fortunate to work with such a talented group of scientists, including the group leaders of major phases of the project, David Sinclair, Carleton University, and Hamish Robertson, University of Washington. We are very grateful for the support of our institutions and funding agencies in Canada, the US, UK, Portugal, and Germany, as well as INCO/VALE for the underground site and AECL for the loan of heavy water. I would particularly like to thank the supportive families of all our scientists, including my own wife, Janet, and our family. A wonderful aspect of this accomplishment has been the opportunity to provide an educational experience to hundreds of students and postdocs at our international institutions, particularly the extraordinary experience of a real scientific breakthrough.