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From Rutherford to Higgs

hyatt.jpg

By James Dacey at the APS April Meeting, Anaheim, California

I took this photo just now looking back at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Anaheim, which is hosting this year’s April Meeting of the American Physical Society. I landed here in California last night having surely been one of the few Brits to fly out of the country on the day Prince William married Kate, and the country enjoyed a national holiday. That’s dedication to physics!

The theme of this year’s meeting is “100 years of subatomic physics”, commemorating the centenary of Ernest Rutherford’s discovery of the atomic nucleus. And this morning the programme kicked off with a special plenary lecture by Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg who crammed the history of particle physics into a half hour talk.

In a fascinating discussion, Weinberg argued that the big questions in present-day particle physics mark the end of an adventure that began with Rutherford’s discovery. “The search for the Higgs boson, as well as supersymmetry and dark matter, is the culmination of a reductionist programme that began with quantum mechanics, which followed Rutherford’s experiment.”

But it’s not just particle physics on the bill here in Anaheim: nuclear physics, astrophysics and plasma physics will also feature heavily. So there will no shortage of physics for me to get my teeth stuck into over the next four days. Watch this space for updates!

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One comment to From Rutherford to Higgs

  1. This year marks the centennary of discovery of the atomic nucleus (Rutherford and Geiger), but also the first calculation of the atomic collision (differential) cross section (Rutherford). Remarkably enough, calculations were done making use of the Newtonian classical mechanics (the only available before 1925). Classical approach to the atomic processes was since then abandoned, until Wannier carried out the derivation of the near-threshold ionization cross section by electrons in 1953. Incidentally, Gregory Wannier was born the same year 1911.
    Classical calculations were subsequently employed in the theory of atomic structure and processes with suprisingly great success, despite the common belief that atoms are essentially quantum mechanical systems.

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