The dawn of DUNE

A powerful planned neutrino experiment gains new members, new leaders and a new name.

Editor’s note: This story originally ran in the March 25, 2015, edition of Symmetry Magazine. By Jennifer Huber and Kathryn Jepsen.

The neutrino experiment formerly known as LBNE has transformed. Since January, its collaboration has gained about 50...

‘A giant among men’

South Dakota native won Nobel Prize 75 years ago

In 1928, 27-year-old Ernest Lawrence left the security of Yale to become an assistant professor in the University of California, Berkeley’s fledgling physics department. Friends predicted he would “quickly go to seed in the unscientific climate of the west,” Luis Alvarez wrote in a biography of Lawrence. 

They couldn’t have been more wrong. Just 11 years later,...

Studying stars from underground

All chemical elements, except hydrogen and helium, were created over the course of billions of years by nuclear reactions in the hot interiors of remote and long-vanished stars. Although scientists understand the recipe of how stars work, they don’t know the full range of astronomical phenomena that occur. The Compact Accelerator System Performing Astrophysical Research (CASPAR) aims to change that. 

“This project could help complete our picture about the mechanisms that generate energies in stars and how...

50 years of neutrinos

In 1965, Ray Davis began building an experiment deep in the Homestake mine with the hope of counting neutrinos, subatomic particles produced in fusion reactions inside stars. Using a 100,000-gallon tank full of perchloroethylene, or dry cleaning fluid, Davis predicted that when neutrinos interacted with the chlorine atoms, they would change into argon atoms, which he and his team would detect.

Davis’s fascination with...

The Majorana mysteries

In 1937, Italian physicist Ettore Majorana hypothesized the existence of the Majorana fermion, a particle that is its own anti-particle. In 1938, he mysteriously disappeared while traveling by ship from Palermo to Naples. Although many believed he drowned, rumors also suggested he had committed suicide or taken refuge in a convent. Another theory says he disappeared because he feared for his life after discoveries he made about the atom...

DOE, NSF to fund LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ) experiment at Sanford Lab

August 1, 2014
This computer generated image show a side-by-side comparison to the current LUX dark matter detector to the larger LZ detector.

LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ), a second generation dark matter experiment, got a big boost when the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation selected it as one of three experiments that will be funded in the next-generation dark matter search. LZ will build on the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment, which has been operating at the 4850 Level of the Sanford Underground Research Facility since 2012, and on the ZEPLIN dark matter program in the United Kingdom, which pioneered the use of these types of detectors underground.

“We emerged from a very intense competition,” said Daniel McKinsey, professor of physics at Yale and a spokesperson for LUX. “We have the most sensitive detector in the world, with LUX. LZ will be hundreds of times more sensitive. It’s gratifying to see that our approach is being validated.”

Construction on the supersized detector is scheduled to begin in 2016, with a commissioning date of 2018. Plans for LZ have been in the works for several years.

“This is great news for the future of Dark Matter exploration and the Sanford Lab,” said Mike Headley, Executive Director of the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority. “The LZ experiment will play a key role in the future of the lab and we’re pleased that the DOE selected the experiment. It certainly will extend the state’s investment in this world-class facility.”

Rick Gaitskell, Hazard Professor of Physics at Brown, is a founding member of LZ and also co-spokesperson for the LUX experiment.

“The go-ahead from DOE and NSF is a major event,” Gaitskell said. “The LZ experiment will continue the liquid xenon direct dark matter search program at Sanford Lab, which we started with the operation of LUX in 2013. LUX will run until 2016 when we will replace it with LZ, which can provide a further improvement in sensitivity of two orders of magnitude due to its significant increase in size.”

Even if LUX makes a dark matter detection before LZ is up and running, LZ will still be necessary to confirm the detection and fully characterize the nature of WIMPS, Gaitskell said.

“This green light is a clear indication of the value the agencies see, not only in all the preparatory work that has gone into LZ, but also in the existing accomplishment of LUX and Sanford Lab these past few years,” said Simon Fiorucci, a research scientist at Brown who is the science coordinator for LUX and simulations coordinator for LZ. “LZ will be timed so that it is ready to start operations when LUX delivers its final results and reaches the limits of its technology. It will be a very natural transition.”

Harry Nelson, professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara and spokesperson for the LZ Collaboration, said, “We still have a lot of work to do. Basically, we got the green light to go the next green light, then the next green light.” Still, he continued, “Everyone is excited.”

Neutrino Day draws variety of ages and interests

July 1, 2014

More than 800 people attended Sanford Underground Research Facility’s 7th annual Neutrino Day festivities Saturday, July 12, in Lead. The event featured exhibits and activities, talks with scientists a mile underground, a science musical, and presentations by leading neutrino and dark matter experts.

            “I like it all,” said one child. That certainly was the sentiment among other children and adults as well. Between activities at Sanford Underground Research Facility, the Opera House, Library and the Lead/Deadwood Middle School, there was no shortage of excitement.

            Two new attractions this year were the “Space School Musical,” presented by the Dakota Players and the Journey Museum’s portable planetarium.

            "I just think it's exciting that I'm here," said Justice Scherer, who attended Neutrino Day with his cousin Emily Tieman and their grandmother. "I really love space, it's one of my favorite things to research,” said Tieman as she prepared to go into the planetarium. “I was going to make a book about it in second grade, but we never got the time to do it.”

              Many visitors started the day at the Sanford Lab, making their way through information tables, demonstrations and hoist room tours. They also talked with scientists and the emergency response team nearly a mile underground; participated in science experiments with South Dakota Public Broadcasting’s Steve “the Science Guy” Rokusek; and used a solar telescope.

Meanwhile, Davis-Bahcall Scholars and Sanford Lab interns operated nearly two dozen activities outside and inside the Opera House. At one table, children built marker bots, battery-operated robots made of yogurts cups and markers that doodled as they traveled the paper-covered table. One little girl said it was the best part of her day.

Other activities included using air pressure to manipulate the size of marshmallows and exploring basic circuits using conductive dough; a engineering design challenge that required participants to move a model of LUX, and creating bracelets from UV beads that change color in sunlight.

Science lectures at the Opera House attracted nearly 400 people. Many were young, aspiring scientists who took the opportunity to meet and talk to science experts. Zack Dugué, a 7th-grader from Rapid City, attended every lecture.

            "I'm caught between astrophysics and rocket science," said Dugue.

            Presentations started with Dr. Mary Kidd, a professor at Tennessee Technological University, who discussed the Majorana Demonstrator. Later, Kidd donned a bright orange Neutrino Day shirt to mingle with guests throughout the rest of the day.

            Dr. Miland Diwan had the crowd laughing at times with his lively and informative lecture about the strange behavior of neutrinos.  Dr. Joel Primack and Nancy Ellen Abrams closed Neutrino Day with a presentation about the role of human beings in the universe.

            “This was a great event,” said Primack. “Nancy and I would love to come back again.”

Click here to see pictures from Neutrino Day.

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