At this year's Neutrino Day 2017: Discovery, excited crowds discovered the fascinating world of science—from geology to physics to engineering. The festivities kicked off Friday with a romantic science comedy and ended Saturday with an inspiring presentation on the discovery of gravitational waves by Michael Landry.
In between, kids of all ages participated in interactive activities at the Gold Rush Plaza, watched Science Steve's "wild science" demonstrations at the Sanford Lab, took tours of the Yates Hoistroom, found out about the geology in the Northern Black Hills and talked to scientists nearly a mile underground at Sanford Lab and 800 miles away at Fermilab.
They witnessed a practice Eclipse Balloon Launch, learned about science experiments at Sanford Lab, and heard from Bonnie Fleming, a DUNE scientist. All in all, a full day. Read more in the articles below.
Innovations from the 4850 Level
South Dakota Public Broadcasting talked with Neutrino Day speakers during a live broadcast from underground. Michael Landry, director of the Hanford LIGO facility in Washington, discussed gravitational waves and the detectors built to find them. “Finding gravitational waves helps us understand the history of the universe,” said Landry, who was the keynote speaker for Neutrino Day.
Above: Bonnie Fleming, a researcher with the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), discussed how Ray Davis’s early neutrino discoveries continue to influence modern neutrino research.
Now then again reading
A staged reading of “now then again” ran Friday and Saturday evening at the Historic Homestake Opera House. Penny Penniston’s romantic comedy follows the lives of physicists at Fermilab, and the play begs the question: Can an action in your future ultimately change your past?
Following the play, the playwright answered questions from curious audience members about the theory on which her work was based and how she came to write such a thought-provoking play. “Post-it notes were the key,” she explained, to keeping kept her timeline and plot straight.
Hoistroom are perennial favorites during Neutrino Day. Even former Homestake miners love to take the tour. We ran into Jerry Baldwin who reminisced about his time working at Sanford Lab.
"As a teenager I worked my way through college at Homestake. Everything is still the same.”
Except, of course, that we now mine for science, not gold.
Team members for the South Dakota Solar Eclipse Team launched a practice weather balloon on Saturday morning in front of a crowd during Neutrino Day. Students and mentors discussed the process of launching a weather balloon and why it is important for the August 21 NASA Total Eclipse event.
While the team had to overcome some technical difficulties to be able to launch, it was ultimately successful. The balloon ascended 100,000 feet before eventually landing two miles from Keystone, S.D.
Visitor shares story
Visitor Jerry Baldwin shared a story about his father, Milton, who worked with Ray Davis Junior. shared a story about his father, Milton, and Ray Davis Jr.
In the 1960s, Davis began researching neutrinos on the 4850 Level of the Homestake Mine. When he didn’t get the results predicted by his partner John Bahcall, many in the science community said his experiment was flawed. Some just thought he was crazy. But Milton remained a steadfast defender.
“My dad worked in the mine and knew Ray Davis,” said Jerry Baldwin, also a former Homestake employee. “Ray Davis told my dad about neutrinos. He became so interested in neutrinos he would tell me about them.”
Children gathered outside of the Gold Rush Plaza to participate in the many hands-on activities offered by Sanford Lab’s Education and Outreach team. “I’m gonna be an astrophysicist!” exclaimed one excited child. “I’m gonna be an engineer!” said another. Others were excited to tell the crowd about what their favorite part of Neutrino Day was.
“The radiation detector was the best!” “I liked the ice cream best!” “We love Science Steve!” Even the transportation provided for attendees was exciting for the children. “We get to ride a school bus!” yelled Madilyn, age 5.
Video conferencing gave Neutrino Day attendees a chance to speak directly with scientists working underground and at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois.
At the Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center, people filled the room to hear Mark Thomson, co-spokesman for the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, and researchers at Fermilab discuss the DUNE experiment and how it will help us learn more about neutrinos and universe.
Nearly a mile underground, Mark Hanhardt, experiment support scientist for Sanford Lab, talked to a full room over a live video feed. Audience members heard about the Majorana Demonstrator project, which is looking for properties of neutrinos, and other experiments at Sanford Lab.
Children were not the only people excited about the fun and free activities. Kathy Kreyger listened to a geology demonstration by David Vardiman, geotechnical project engineer at Sanford Lab.
“He did an amazing job. He brought it right down so even I got it,” Kreyger said. She also visited the other Neutrino Day events around town. “It’s all been fun, we’ve just enjoyed all of it.”
Bonnie Fleming on Neutrinos
“Hold out your hand,” Bonnie Fleming instructed a crowd of nearly 100 people during her Neutrino Day presentation. The crowd obliged. She counted slowly: “One...two...three.” She smiled. “Three trillion neutrinos just went through your hand.”
Fleming is a researcher with the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) and the deputy chief research officer for the neutrino program at Fermilab. Fleming discussed the impacts of Ray Davis’ neutrino experiment on neutrino research, including the upcoming DUNE project, an international mega-science experiment housed at Sanford Lab and Fermilab.
Braden Bury, 16, from Watertown, South Dakota said the whole day was amazing, but he especially enjoyed learning about neutrinos and hearing the scientists giving lectures.
Michael Landry on gravitational waves
For decades, researchers have been “listening” to the universe. And in September 2015, they finally heard something that completely altered the way we see it: a chirp that turned out to be exactly what they were looking for: gravitational waves.
Landry, a physicist with the California Institute of Technology and the Head of the Hanford LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) Observatory, knows first-hand the importance of this discovery. And as the keynote speaker for this year’s Neutrino Day, he shared the importance of that discovery and the value of research.
“Ultimately, all of our practical, innovative technical solutions are born of pure research and pure thought like Einstein and his General Theory of Relativity,” he said. “After many decades of searching, we now have a new tool to apply to the universe, to learn about physics, astrophysics and cosmology."
Another Neutrino Day in the books
"Through Neutrino Day, try to inspire people to discover more about the science at Sanford Lab and science in general,” said Constance Walter, communications director at Sanford Research Facility. "I've been a part of this for four years and love the excitement."
Next year, join Sanford Lab as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of Neutrino Day. The festivities will be held July 14. Save the date and join us for another year of exciting science discoveries!
Neutrino Day would not be possible without the generous support of our sponsors and partners. We also rely on the help of more than 100 volunteers who give their time and energy to make Neutrino Day a success for the entire community.