Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Physicists to discuss largest parity violation, other adventures in table-top physics: Parity violation, the property by which nature tells left from right, was discovered first in the 1950s by watching the decay of cobalt nuclei. The weak nuclear force, unlike the other known forces of nature, brings about reactions that would look different when observed in a mirror. Years later, parity violation was observed in atoms. Now, Budker uses atoms of the rare Earth element ytterbium to observe the largest extent of parity violation ever seen in atoms, larger by a factor of 100 compared to previous tests. His goal is to improve the precision of this measurement so that researchers could begin to use the parity-violating process to help measure the distribution of neutrons in nuclei.