South Pole Data Helps UW-Madison Scientist Study The Universe

Nov 1, 2017

Most people aren’t able to say that they work with data from the South Pole, but Justin Vandenbroucke is the exception.

Vandenbroucke is an assistant professor in the physics department at UW-Madison, and specializes in high-energy astrophysical neutrinos. He works with data from the IceCube South Pole Neutrino Observatory.

"Neutrinos are sub-atomic particles that have no charge, so they’re kind of like neutrons, but they also have very little mass so they’re even less massive than protons and electrons,” he explains.

“What we’re trying to do now is actually use them to see way beyond the sun to actually study the universe using neutrinos rather than different types of light,” Vandenbroucke says. The larger the detector, the better the probability that a neutrino will interact with something in the detector. "You need a big volume because each interaction is very unlikely," he says. 

Vandenbroucke will be participating in the annual Wisconsin Science Festival, which runs from Thursday through the weekend at sites around Wisconsin, including the Milwaukee area. He will talk about this Thursday evening at the Milwaukee Public Museum as part of its Science on Tap series