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Detecting the Invisible: Studying the ghostly neutrino particles

May 30, 2015 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

$10 - $30
At any given moment, each cubic foot of the universe contains 60 million neutrinos, traveling at nearly the speed of light. A trillion neutrinos will pass through your body in the next second (zing!) that were created in supernovae, in the center of the sun and at the origin of the universe. But a single neutrino can travel through more than a light-year of lead without leaving a trace. How do we investigate these elusive particles, and what can they tell us?
Dr. Keith Matera, a researcher at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), will explain the origins and workings of neutrinos, including how each of the three known ‘flavors’ of neutrino — electron, muon and tau neutrinos — can ‘oscillate’ from one type into another as they travel through space. These neutrinos aren’t alone in the void, either — for each neutrino there is a corresponding anti-neutrino, which may or may not be the same particle as its neutrino sibling!
The current generation of neutrino experiments, including Fermilab’s NOvA neutrino experiment, seeks to measure the rate at which neutrinos, and anti-neutrinos, oscillate from one flavor into another. A difference between neutrino and anti-neutrino oscillation rates could be a clue for why the universe has more matter than anti-matter — and hence, why we exist. Keith will explain how NOvA and other neutrino experiments are making this measurement, as well as how we seek to answer another fundamental question: how much do neutrinos weigh? But here’s another quantum twist: like momentum and position, a neutrino’s mass and flavor can’t be measured at the same time!
Learn more about these elusive and fascinating particles, what we know about them, and what else they can tell us.


Keith Matera is a researcher on the NOvA (NuMI Off-Axis Neutrino (v) Appearance) experiment at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. His ongoing research is focused on measuring the rate at which muon neutrinos ‘oscillate’ into electron neutrinos as they travel 810 km through the earth’s surface from Batavia, IL to Ash River, MN. Prior to his work on NOvA, Keith worked with the Large Hadron Collider’s energetic predecessor, the Fermilab Tevatron, as a member of the Collider Detector at Fermilab (CDF) collaboration. In his doctoral thesis, Keith made the first measurement of low-momentum (sub- 10 GeV/c^2) charm quarks produced alongside vector bosons in proton-antiproton collisions. In his undergraduate work, Keith developed astrophysical simulations of black holes, geared toward simplifications of the frequently complex Einstein field equations needed to describe dense collections of matter and energy in space-time.
Keith has presented at several international conferences, including the prestigious Rencontres de Moriond, and the International Conference on High-Energy Physics. He has also taught and developed high school courses in physics and computer science, including teaching for two years at the Canterbury School in New Milford, Connecticut. Keith is deeply interested in physics education and outreach, in developing software for the analysis of petabyte-scale datasets, and in understanding the fundamental forces that govern the universe.

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May 30, 2015
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
$10 - $30


222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza, 12th Floor
Chicago, IL 60654 United States


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