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Researchers working on the MINERvA project, which aims to solve some of physics’s biggest mysteries, have found a brand-new approach to look at protons. The discovery is making ripples in the field of physics after being featured on the cover of Nature, the most prestigious scientific journal in the world. Nearly 70 scientists from 24 institutions, including UF’s own Neutrino Research Group, contributed to MINERvA’s final report.

There are trillions of neutrinos zipping through your body right now. They don’t harm anything and barely interact with other particles. Because of their mysterious nature, these particles have earned the moniker “ghost particles.” Apart from their catchy moniker, neutrinos are a key to understanding the cosmos at its most elemental level.

The MINERvA experiment uses high-energy particle beams to create these sub-atomic ghosts, which are then guided into a detector. Although the MINERvA collaboration didn’t initially set out to study protons, researchers at the University of Rochester saw that the methods developed for neutrinos could be applied to other fields. Thanks to these ghost-particles, the MINERvA team was able to accomplish a feat that was previously thought impossible, revealing the true size and structure of protons. Experimental particle physicist HEATHER RAY, who has directed the UF research group since 2007, said, “Discovery of this novel technique to examine protons underscores the remarkable outcomes that may emerge when you apply creative thinking and problem-solving.”

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