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Louisiana Tech helps to discover particle that shouldn't exist

Ruston, La. - "We know something's going on, we don't know what but we're hoping and we think that we can explain it with a sterile neutrino," says Dr. Kathleen Johnston, Physics Professor at Emerita.

 

Kathleen Johnston and five students at Louisiana Tech University embarked on a experiment back in the 90s. While researching they discovered sterile neutrinos.

 

A particle that can pass through matter undetected. 

 

"A sterile neutrino would only interact with gravity because it'll have a little bit of mass and so that makes it an even odder type of neutrino than the ones we know about now," says Lee Sawyer, Professor of Physics and Academic Director of Chemistry & Physics.

 

Back then,  they couldn't replicate what they found. That's what makes a discovery a discovery. So sterile neutrinos were shelved.

Until now...

 

Dr. Johnston says, "Now everybody is sitting up and taking notice like what did you really see, what's really going on here."

 

The new experiment--called  'mini-boone'--has detected the sterile neutrinos again.

Confirming what the tech team discovered decades ago.

 

That could un-lock  one of the more  mysterious subjects in science.

Sawyer says, “The important thing about sterile neutrino though is if it exists, it may explain dark matter.”

 

The empty space--that you can't measure--but  affects gravity. They still need to be able to achieve the same results every time they try 

 

But Johnston and Lee Sawyer say to be at the forefront of sterile neutrino research makes them proud to call Louisiana Tech home. 

 

“We’ve been apart of some of the most fundamental discoveries of the last 25 years."

 

"We're testing the limits and maybe measuring something that the standard model doesn't have in it."

 

Kathleen Johnston says it was a big deal for Louisiana Tech to join the first experiment years ago.

 

Both Johnston and Lee Sawyer say that a lot of more research and experiments come next 

After the confirmation that sterile neutrinos exist. 


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