Friday, January 25, 2008

Large Hadron Collider - Southampton Cafe Scientifique

I attended a talk by Prof. Nick Evans at Southampton Cafe Scientifique on 24th January. He talked entertainly and in simple terms about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) (wiki) coming into operation in May 2008 at CERN Switzerland. The talk was well attended with 80+ persons.

Prof. Nick Evans, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Southampton

Cafe Scientifique say 'In just a few months particle physicists will be switching on a multi-billion pound atom smasher in Geneva called the Large Hadron Collider. This machine will probe the most basic building blocks of nature and shed light on our understanding of the masses of particles. Excitingly, the machine must uncover the explanation to a missing piece in our understanding of the weak nuclear force. Speculation is rife as to what will be found from the mysterious Higgs particle to "supersymmetry" or extra dimensions of Space-Time.'

The main points that he presented were:-
  • detecting the Higgs Boson is the main aim of LHC
  • LHC costs $2.6 billion over 10 years - this is comparitively a small amount of money
  • LHC will probe the nature of matter by firing hadrons (eg protons) into each other at speeds approaching speed of light with 14TeV 'smashability'
  • we humans see a 4 Dimensional world - if hadrons at LHC collide and some of the energy of collision is not accounted for - then maybe the energy has gone to another dimension (String Theory predicts 11 dimensions)
    • LHC is unlikely to give experimental support to String Theory (cf. Lisa Randall)
  • all matter is composed of 3 fundamental particles: electrons, up quarks, down quarks
  • a proton contains 2 up quarks and one down quark
  • a neutron contains 2 down quarks and one up quark
  • electrons v electron neutrino
  • he successfully resisted the temptation to delve into detail!
  • he only mentioned his book twice, en passant!
  • his (tongue in cheek) goal is to get a Nobel Prize!
  • we could be in for some surprises at LHC!!
  • whatever happens LHC will get some results
    • LHC is expected to be able to confirm or deny the existence of the Higgs boson in most circumstances.
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