If it wasn't for finding the God particle, work by UW-Madison researchers and others on why the universe has virtually no anti-matter would have been the biggest scientific breakthrough of the year, according to Science Magazine.
Work by UW-Madison physics professor Karsten Heeger and his team has been deemed the second biggest breakthrough of 2012, beaten out by the detection of the Higgs boson, an elusive sub-atomic particle that is considered key in understanding the universe.
The announcement of the top breakthroughs, selected by Science Magazine, was made in a news release by UW-Madison on Wednesday.
According to the news release:
The researchers were able to make a precise measurement of elusive, nearly massless particles, called anti-neutrinos, to get crucial info into why the universe is dominated by matter and not by its close relative anti-matter.
The project was centered at Daya Bay in China. The work was done in an underground anti-neutrino detector pool.
The chief engineer of the anti-neutrino detectors was Jeff Cherwinka from UW-Madison's Physical Sciences Laboratory in Stoughton.
"At the beginning of time, in the Big Bang, a soup of particle and anti-particles was created, but somehow an imbalance came about," Heeger said. "All the studies done have not found enough difference between particles and anti-particles to explain the dominance of matter over anti-matter."
The installation at Daya Bay was close to a nuclear reactor, a fertile source of anti-neutrinos.
According to the news release, researchers were able to measure changes in anti-neutrinos as they went from the reactor to the detectors.