Monday, September 27, 2010

All Day Neutrino Celebration

The Neutrino Celebration on August 27 was an all-day event hosted by the SRS Heritage Foundation to celebrate the historic discovery of the neutrino and recognize the Nobel prize. . .the only Nobel prize in science awarded for work done in South Carolina. The confirmation of the neutrino at the Savannah River Site P Reactor by a team from Los Alamos, headed by Dr. Fred Reines and Dr. Clyde Cowan, was one of the most significant for modern physics. The neutrino, a sub-atomic particle, was calculated to exist by Wolfgang Pauli in 1931 and named “neutrino. . .little neutron” by the Italian physicist, Enrico Fermi. The Reines-Cowan team, dubbed the “Poltergeist Project”, persisted until their quest for the elusive neutrino was confirmed in 1956. Unfortunately, Dr. Cowan died in 1974 but Dr. Reines was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1995.

A replica of the plaque presented to SRS by the Atomic Energy Commission to commemorate confirmation of the neutrino was unveiled during a ceremony in front of the Chamber of Commerce at 10 am. The event was attended by about 50 guests to include the two daughters of the late Dr. Cowan, who came to Aiken to be a part of the celebration. A state historical marker was also unveiled during the morning activities. The marker is located in front of the Chamber building. One side commemorates “The Detection of the Neutrino, 1956” while the second side commemorates “The Nobel Prize in Physics, 1995”.

A film lecture made by Dr. Cowan at the U.S. Naval Academy shortly before his death opened a series of presentations moderated by Dr. Lester Welch at the Etherredge Center at 1 pm. A panel discussion chaired by Dr. Henry Gurr included participants in the neutrino experiment who shared reminiscences and anecdotes from the past. The program concluded with two presentations “Neutrino in Astrophysics” by Dr. Frank Avignone and “Neutrino Research Using Accelerators” by Dr. Sanjib Mishra, both of USC Columbia. The audience of about 60 enjoyed the presentations, exhibits and light refreshments.

To conclude the day’s activities, the CNTA, one of the co-sponsors of the Neutrino Celebration, hosted a dinner at Newberry Hall at 6:30 pm. Dr. John Palms, Distinguished President Emeritus of USC, was the featured speaker. Other co-sponsors were the University of South Carolina Aiken and the American Nuclear Society in conjunction with the 175th Anniversary of Aiken.