U.S. targets matter-antimatter frontier
From Science, Oct. 23, 2015
The neutrino is the hottest particle in physics. Two weeks ago, two physicists won the Nobel Prize for showing that the ghostly particle is not, as once thought, massless (Science, 9 October, p. 145). And last week nuclear physicists in the United States urged government funders to swiftly launch a new experiment to test whether the neutrino is — weirdly — its own antiparticle. If it is, the discovery would rewrite textbooks in both nuclear and particle physics.
First, though, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) must come up with roughly $250 million to build a massive detector deep underground. It would search for a new type of nuclear decay, called neutrinoless double β decay, which can occur only if the neutrino and antineutrino are one. The United States will have to hustle to beat other nations to the potential prize, say physicists, who hope to start building the experiment in 2018. "The neutrinoless double β decay arena is very competitive," says Robert McKeown, a physicist at Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) in Newport News, Virginia. "If the U.S. wants to lead, we can't wait."