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Mitchell residents to chat live via video with physicists underground

Mitchell residents can connect live with scientists deep underground this week during an event hosted by the local Rotary Club. The Deep Science lecture series will make its The entire final stop of the summer at noon Thursday at the Mitchell Ramada. It's open to the public.

The event will begin with a 15-minute slideshow overview of the lab presented by an individual in the room, consisting of pictures and video, before moving into a live, two-way video Qand-A session with physicists at the Davis Campus of the Sanford Lab. The lab is located at the former Homestake gold mine in Lead and is 4,850 feet underground, nearly a mile under the earth's surface.

"The entire purpose of a video conference is to make it be a conversation," said Bill Harlan, communications director of the Sanford Underground Research Facility. "At first, people are a little shy, and then they realize it does work. We've had some really interesting conversations."

The physicists will give a short walking tour of the facility, and will then answer questions on their experiences working underground and about the lab's experiments.

The lab is involved in a worldwide race to detect dark matter, the most prevalent and predominant form of matter in the universe that has never been directly detected. The Majorana Demonstrator is being used to detect dark matter, which scientists believe is a Weakly Interacting Massive Particle, or WIMP. The physicists utilize a xenon detector with the hope that a WIMP will collide with a xenon atom.

The lab is also involved in a neutrino experiment in an attempt to detect a low-mass particle.

"We want people to know these are two world-leading experiments, and they are exploring some of the most important questions facing 21st century physics," Harlan said. "Physicists and astrophysicists all over the world know about this project. We want to be able to say the same thing for the people in South Dakota."

Live video conferences with the underground physicists have been held in Huron, Aberdeen, Sioux Falls and Yankton, with more than a hundred audience members in attendance at several sessions.

The free presentation is sponsored by the Mitchell Rotary Club. An optional lunch is available for $10.