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The LHC: or how the world's largest experiment can investigate matter's smallest constituents.
Public lecture on 21 June 2007 at The Royal Society, London.
Go here if you want to see the lecture with slides:
By Dr. Tara Shears, Royal Society University Research Fellow, University of Liverpool.
Deep beneath the Swiss countryside, final touches are being made to the world's largest piece of scientific equipment the Large Hadron Collider (or LHC for short). The LHC is the most powerful particle accelerator ever built. It is capable of recreating the very energetic conditions last seen in the universe a billionth of a second after the Big Bang, and allows particle physicists to study the fundamental ingredients of matter that the universe was formed of at the time. Amazingly, it will do this 40 million times a second, and use enormous high tech experiments to record what happens.
Why would we want to go to such lengths to explore the structure of matter? In this lecture, Tara Shears will discuss how the LHC will help scientists learn more about the nature of matter and expand the frontiers of our knowledge further than ever.
Tara Shears is a particle physicist and Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Liverpool. Since obtaining her PhD in 1995 she has worked on experiments at CERN, the European Centre for Particle Physics, in Switzerland, and at Fermilab in America. Her research interests focus on the properties of bottom quarks and the light they may throw on new fundamental particles and interactions.
About the Lecture
Perhaps the universe is not so much strange as brimming with lovely paradox. The search for such beauty seems to lie at the heart of Frank Wilczek’s work. Twentieth century physics, from Einstein through Wilczek’s own Nobel Prize-winning efforts, involves demonstrating the existence of a topsy-turvy reality: for instance, that such sub-atomic particles as quarks and gluons, which have little or no mass, “orchestrate themselves into not just protons and neutrons but you and me,” according to Wilczek. “How is it possible to construct heavy objects out of objects that weigh nothing?,” he asks. Only by “creating mass out of pure energy.” These particles are essentially “excitations in otherwise empty space.” Says Wilczek: “That suggests something …beautiful and poetic: the masses of particles are not like, or similar to or metaphorically suggested by—they are the tones or frequencies of vibration patterns in dynamical voids.” The theory of quarks and gluons and the strong interaction accounts quantitatively for “the mass of protons, neutrons and ultimately you and me and everything around us.” But physics has not yet squared away all aspects of the universe. Wilzcek says that “in cosmology, we meet our match, and don’t know what’s going on.” This is because scientists can’t account for much of the mass in the cosmos. 70% of this mass is in “dark energy,” which is pushing the universe apart. Wilczek hopes that explanations for the dark stuff will emerge through improving equations, unifying theories of different interactions and extending their symmetries. “Beautifying equations leads not to ugly consequences but beautiful surprises,” he concludes.