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The UW’s IceCube has nothing to do with rapper/actor O’Shea Jackson Sr., a.k.a. Ice Cube. But the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, an international collaboration near the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica, is still pretty darn cool, literally: the average winter temperature there is −76 degrees Fahrenheit. Built in 2011 and led by the UW, the observatory consists of more than 5,000 sensors spread throughout one cubic kilometer of ice, hence the name. (Having trouble visualizing it? This video provides a view of the sensors that are buried beneath the ice.) That giant ice cube at the South Pole provides the best conditions for neutrino hunting. If you’re a physics novice, you’re probably wondering what a neutrino is. According to IceCube’s FAQ page, “neutrinos are invisible, nearly massless subatomic particles that are electrically neutral.” Scientists believe these particles originate from phenomena that humans don’t fully understand, like supernovas and black holes. Neutrinos are neat because they’re numerous, they travel nearly at the speed of light, they don’t get sent off course by magnetic fields, and they rarely interact with other matter. Because of these qualities, neutrinos can provide direct, unaltered information about where they come from and the events that caused them. Neutrinos are like tiny direct messages from unknown entities in space, and IceCube researchers believe that studying these messages could help uncover some major mysteries about the universe. As long as these Antarctic researchers don’t uncover the Thing, we say, “Keep digging.” 

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