UH played role in 2008 physics Nobel

January 12th, 2009  |  by  |  Published in Research News

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa physicists enjoyed particular satisfaction—and a little self-congratulation—at the announcement of the 2008 Nobel Prize for Physics.

The UH scientists had a hand both in bringing the winning work to the attention of the scientific community three decades ago, and in recent experiments that validated the theory.

In 1973 UH Professor Sandip Pakvasa and then-Visiting Professor Hirotaka Sugawara spotted a paper by Nobel co-recipients Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Masukawa in a Japanese journal.

The paper described the concept of broken symmetry, which predicts that certain subatomic particles do not break down in symmetrical fashion due to a flaw in the symmetry between matter and anti-matter.

Pakvasa and Sugawara applied the theory to experimental measurements then available. Their widely read 1976 article on the results stimulated theoretical and experimental activity worldwide, recalls Stephen Olsen, UH Mānoa physics department chair.

In 2001 Olsen and other UH physicists in UH’s High Energy Physics Group tested broken symmetry as part of the Belle Experiment at Japan’s High Energy Physics Laboratory (KEK) collider/detector.

“Their theory was right on,” says Olsen, who presented the findings as co-spokesman for the international Belle team.

“This is really fantastic validation of what we’ve been working on the last decade,” agrees Thomas Browder, who wrote the resulting paper and now serves as Belle co-spokesman.

Olsen, Browder, their UH colleagues and the rest of the Belle team look forward to additional advances as Japan prepares for construction of a new Super B factory collider.

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