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Astroparticle physics

Astroparticle physics

Tracking neutrinos in virtual reality

07 Mar 2017

This month’s podcast takes you on a virtual reality tour of a neutrino detector. Science communicator Andrew Glester visits the University of Oxford in the UK to meet members of the team behind VENu – a new smartphone app that explores the physics underlying the MicroBooNE neutrino detector at Fermilab in the US

As recently reported on this website, the app can be used with virtual reality (VR) headsets, enabling users to observe particle tracks inside the detector and enjoy tutorials about the nature of neutrinos. It can be downloaded free of charge from the App Store and Google Play.

Developed by an international team of physicists, the app also has a game element whereby users can search for neutrino signals. In the podcast, Glester asks the developers why they believe it is important for professional physicists to develop outreach tools such as VENu to inspire public interest in their work. Not one to rest on his laurels, the app’s chief developer Marco Del Tutto is already considering ways in which the group can further develop the app. Eventually, such an app could even be used as a citizen science tool in which the public can help particle physicists to identify neutrino detections amid large data sets.

As Glester mentions in the podcast, VENu is not the only immersive video experience that might be of interest to physicists. CMS-cardboard is a VR visualization of the CMS detector at CERN’s large hadron collider (LHC). Meanwhile, NASA has created a 360-degree artist’s impression of the surface of one of the seven planets recently discovered around the TRAPPIST-1 star.

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