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Commemorative Lecture Event Held for Nobel Prize Recipient Professor Kajita (General Affairs Group)

January 20, 2016

Date of activity: January 18, 2016

A commemorative lecture event honoring Nobel Prize in Physics recipient Professor Takaaki Kajita took place at the University of Tokyo's Yasuda Auditorium on Monday evening, January 18, 2016. Professor Hiromi Yokoyama of the University's Graduate School of Science acted as the event's moderator. Approximately 600 UTokyo students and academic and administrative staff members who registered in advance for the event braved the snowy weather to attend. Packing the auditorium, they were rewarded for their determination with the chance to experience firsthand a lecture given by a Nobel Prize winner.

To start off the event, President Gonokami, who was a guest of Professor Kajita's at the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony in December, addressed the audience. The president then conferred the special title of University of Tokyo Honorary Professor Emeritus to Professor Kajita, making him the 5th person ever to receive that distinction.

Next, Professor Hitoshi Murayama of the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe took the stage. Professor Murayama had been one of the first people to congratulate Professor Kajita after he announced his discovery of neutrino oscillations in 1998, readily showing his enthusiasm for this groundbreaking scientific development. In his speech titled "Our Father, the Neutrino," Professor Murayama compared the Super-Kamiokande facility to a time machine and the atom to a famous rugby player. He also likened the neutrino to a "shy hero," and the different flavors (types) of neutrinos to chocolate, strawberry and pistachio ice cream! While peppering his speech with metaphors, Professor Murayama engagingly explained how neutrino oscillations are a major discovery that changed the fundamentals of particle physics.

After Professor Murayama's presentation, Professor Kajita, the headliner of this event, approached the podium to give his lecture titled "Discovering that Neutrinos have Mass." In his presentation, he said that the road to his discovery began with his involvement in the Kamiokande experiments, which were conducted to detect proton decay. Upon carrying out these experiments, he noticed that the number of muon neutrinos among atmospheric neutrinos was much lower than expected. Professor Kajita acknowledged that his questioning of and subsequent thorough analysis of this unusual data became a turning point in his life. Looking back on his state of mind at the time, the professor revealed his overwhelming excitement that he had possibly found the existence of neutrino oscillations. He then went into detail about how the status of neutrino oscillations was raised from a possibility to a confirmed reality through the results obtained from the Super-Kamiokande detector experiments. The professor went on to give an overview of the past and future of neutrino research and expressed his gratitude to all the people who in some way contributed to his discovery, particularly his mentors. As always, Professor Kajita concluded his lecture by offering encouraging words to young researchers.

The lectures from the two professors were followed by a question-and-answer period with the audience. Afterwards, students from the University’s Graduate School of Science presented bouquets to the both professors. Professor Kajita, who is 56 years old, was given a bouquet of 56 roses. One of the students placed a 57th rose in Professor Kajita's chest pocket, symbolizing the University's wish for his continued success. Professor Kajita was also presented with a collection of small postcards arranged to look like the interior of the Super-Kamiokande facility. Written on these postcards were short messages to the professor from students, academic staff and administrative staff members of the University. The audience, most of whom had been unable to attend the Nobel Lecture held in Sweden, were able to experience the atmosphere of the illustrious Nobel Lecture as their minds oscillated between the miniscule world of neutrinos and the vast immenseness of space.

The commemorative lecture event was broadcast live through the University's internal LAN at five venues on the Hongo, Komaba and Kashiwa Campuses and at the Kamioka Observatory.

  • Answering a question from the audience, Professor Kajita says that his time as an assistant researcher at the International Center for Elementary Particle Physics was one of the most exciting periods of his life
    Answering a question from the audience, Professor Kajita says that his time as an assistant researcher at the International Center for Elementary Particle Physics was one of the most exciting periods of his life
  • Professor Murayama seizes the attention of the audience by talking even about the film Angels & Demons, which features antimatter, and about Japanese singer Megumi Asaoka’s hit song “Watashi no Kare wa Hidari-kiki” (“My Guy is Left-handed”) *Neutrinos are considered to be
    Professor Murayama seizes the attention of the audience by talking even about the film Angels & Demons, which features antimatter, and about Japanese singer Megumi Asaoka’s hit song “Watashi no Kare wa Hidari-kiki” (“My Guy is Left-handed”) *Neutrinos are considered to be "left-handed" particles
  • Professor Kajita smiles in front of a postcard-decorated board as he holds a bouquet, both presented to him by the University. Written on the board's small postcards featuring photos of the Super-Kamiokande's photomultiplier tubes are messages from University members
    Professor Kajita smiles in front of a postcard-decorated board as he holds a bouquet, both presented to him by the University. Written on the board's small postcards featuring photos of the Super-Kamiokande's photomultiplier tubes are messages from University members