Takaaki Kajita of Japan and Arthur McDonald of Canada have just become the 200th and 201st Nobel physics laureates for discovering that subatomic particles with almost no mass switch between different "flavors." The omnipresent neutrinos are difficult to study because they hardly ever interact with anything else, reports the BBC. Kajita and McDonald measured their properties using large instruments and found the neutrinos change identities, reports the AP. "The discovery has changed our understanding of the innermost workings of matter and can prove crucial to our view of the universe," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said at a press conference in Stockholm.
"There was a eureka moment when we were able to see that neutrinos appeared to change from one type to the other in traveling from the sun to the Earth," McDonald, of Queen's University, said in a phone interview from Canada. He added he'd gotten a call from the committee only 45 minutes earlier, around 4am local time, and the Guardian notes he sounded a little sleepy. He'll split the $960,000 prize money with Kajita, director of the Institute for Cosmic Ray Research and professor at the University of Tokyo. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry will be awarded on Wednesday. (The medicine Nobel went to three scientists for their "immeasurable" contribution to human health.)