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Scientists Undertake Study of Matter -- WSJ

22 Jul 2017 6:32 am
By Quint Forgey 

This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S. print edition of The Wall Street Journal (July 22, 2017).

Scientists at a physics laboratory outside Chicago and a mile beneath the Earth's surface in a former South Dakota gold mine on Friday celebrated the launch of an improbable physics experiment that will shoot subatomic particles through 800 miles of rock and dirt to study some fundamental cosmic riddles.

The more than $1 billion experiment, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy; CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research; and institutions from 30 countries is meant to help researchers better understand neutrinos, the most abundant matter particles in the universe.

The Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment begins at Fermilab, a Department of Energy national laboratory in Batavia, Ill., which will fire an intense beam of neutrinos at near-light-speed through the Earth's mantle toward detectors at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, S.D. The trip will last about four milliseconds.

Construction began Friday on the neutrino detectors at the Sanford lab, which will be about a mile deep and filled with 70,000 tons of liquid argon. Construction on the Fermilab beamline, which will deliver the neutrinos to South Dakota, is scheduled to begin in 2021. The first neutrino beam will fire in about ten years.

"Together, we will build the largest science megaproject ever attempted on U.S. soil," said Mike Headley, executive director of the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority, which operates the Sanford lab.

The Sanford lab, which opened in the summer of 2012 and costs about $20 million annually to maintain, is the site of the former Homestake Gold Mine, which has been dormant since 2001.

More than 1,000 scientists from around the world will observe changes the neutrinos undergo on their journey from Illinois to South Dakota and will analyze the neutrinos' interactions with the extremely cold liquid in the Sanford detectors. They are trying to figure out what role neutrinos played in the universe's evolution, and their findings could explain why matter exists.

"This project, along with other exciting physics experiments occurring here at the Sanford lab, can transform the young minds of the next generation," said South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard. "We're honored to play a role in mankind's march toward a greater understanding of the universe."

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 22, 2017 02:32 ET (06:32 GMT)

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