Nova Scotia

Arthur McDonald, Nobel winner, snags 2nd major science honour

Cape Breton-born scientist Arthur McDonald has won another significant science award, just weeks after earning a 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Research on neutrinos leads to 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

Arthur B. MacDonald, professor emeritus at Queen's University in Canada, speaks on the phone shortly after learning that he was a co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics. He's now won a second major award for the same research. (Lars Hagberg/Reuters)

Cape Breton-born scientist Arthur McDonald has won another significant science award, just weeks after earning a 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics.

On Sunday night, McDonald was one of the winners of the $3-million 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics.

Five teams conducting experiments (three in Japan, one in China and one in Canada) were honoured for various experiments that looked at neutrino oscillation.

McDonald, a professor emeritus at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., led the team at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory.

'Basic science'

The scientists have focused their research on neutrinos. Along with quarks and electrons, they're the most basic particles that make up matter. 

The scientists have demonstrated that the subatomic particles change identities, also known as "flavours." The neutrinos transform themselves between three types: electron-type, muon-type and tau-type. That discovery proves that neutrinos have mass. 

"We are doing basic science," he told CBC News of his research. "And our understanding of how neutrinos behave, and how they fit into the theories, enable us to understand — for example — how they affect how the universe evolves. How they affect processes in the sun and other stars."

Last month, McDonald shared the Nobel Prize with Takaaki Kajita of the University of Tokyo. Kajita was also named one of the winners of the breakthrough prize.

After his Nobel win, McDonald's mother told CBC News her son wasn't doing the work for the awards. 

"You don't achieve things like this without a lot of hard work," Valerie McDonald said. "He loved science."

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