Nobel Prize Laureate Takaaki Kajita
Resolving the Neutrino Puzzle
The 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded jointly to Japanese scientist Dr. Takaaki Kajita and Canadian scientist Arthur B. McDonald for the “discovery of neutrino oscillations, which shows that neutrinos have mass.” Modern physics uses the Standard Model, which defines three differerent types, or “flavors,” of a very small, elusive particle called the neutrino. In 1998, Dr. Takaaki Kajita detected neutrinos that were created in reactions between cosmic rays and the Earth’s atmosphere inside the Super-Kamiokande detector, an experimental facility in a Japanese mine. Measurements showed deviations, which were explained by the neutrinos switching between the differerent “flavors.” This is ultimately meant that neutrinos must have mass. As the Standard Model is based on the theory that neutrinos lack mass, this research meant that the model must be revised. Dr. Kajita was born in 1959. In 1981, he started his scientific career in the graduate program at the University of Tokyo, where he received his Ph.D. in physics in 1986. After graduating, he began working at the University of Tokyo’s International Center for Elementary Particle Physics. In 1988, he moved to the University of Tokyo’s Institute for Cosmic Ray Research and has served as its director since 2008. Tokyo Journal Executive Editor Anthony Al-Jamie talked to Dr. Takaaki Kajita about his contributions to the eld of physics.
TJ: How did you first get interested in physics?
KAJITA: When I was a high school student, I studied physics, and during my undergraduate studies, I thought physics was interesting so I decided to do research in my graduate program. During my graduate program, I joined Professor [Masatoshi] Koshiba’s group and the Kamiokande experiment. That was a truly fantastic experience for me, so I decided to work in the field of physics.
TJ: Did you struggle with anything during your doctoral studies?
KAJITA: I was struggling with physics in English. At that time, I was able to write about five lines in English, but for the thesis we had to write more than 100 pages. That was a big problem for me [laughs].
The complete article can be found in Issue #278 of the Tokyo Journal. Click here to order from Amazon.