Tag archives: Higgs boson
By Matin Durrani in Cheltenham
I made the short journey yesterday from Bristol to the regency spa town of Cheltenham, which this week is hosting its annual science festival. One of the largest such events in the UK, it’s been running since 2002 and has a packed programme of A-list speakers and topics ranging from genetics to geology, from cocktails to cake, and from the human brain to the Higgs boson.
My main reason for attending the festival, though, was to meet Caltech physicist Sean Carroll, whose book about the search for the Higgs boson (called The Particle at the End of the Universe ) was picked by Physics World last year as one of our top 10 books of 2013. Carroll was in the Gloucestershire town to give a one-hour talk about the Higgs, although the festival organizers were clearly working him hard as he also spoke in separate lectures on dark matter and dark energy, and on his role as a science adviser to Hollywood. (Carroll’s worked on films including Thor, Avengers Assemble and TRON: Legacy and even played a tiny role on TV’s The Big Bang Theory – stay tuned for more on that in our upcoming audio interview with him.)
By Margaret Harris
When particle physicist Jon Butterworth and cosmologist Pedro Ferreira took the stage last night at the Bristol Festival of Ideas, they did so as representatives of the two pillars of modern physics. Butterworth, a leading member of the ATLAS collaboration at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, spoke about the discovery of the Higgs boson and the effort to understand the nature of matter on the quantum level. Ferreira, a theorist at the University of Oxford, focused on Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which describes the behaviour of colossal objects such as galaxies and black holes.
The equations of quantum mechanics and general relativity are famously incompatible, but far from starting a Harry Hill-style confrontation (“FIIIIGHT!”), the advocates of the two theories shared the stage amiably, fielding questions from audience members and talking about their respective new books (Smashing Physics for Butterworth, The Perfect Theory for Ferreira). You can hear Ferreira and Butterworth’s responses to some common (and not-so-common) questions in the clips below.
By James Dacey
I’ve written a few times recently about the rise of massive open online courses, or “MOOCs” for short. If this trend in education has so far passed you by, MOOCs are online courses generally offered free of charge by some of the leading universities in the world. For example, Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers courses in classical mechanics and electricity & magnetism, and the University of Edinburgh has recently launched a course about the discovery of the Higgs boson.
MOOCs tend to combine video lectures with assignments such as problem sets and extended projects. In many ways, the course formats mirror or complement traditional classroom-based education, incorporating features such as forums where students can discuss the course content amongst themselves. Some of the science courses even include online “practicals” by way of virtual laboratories. But despite the proliferation of MOOCs in the past few years, very little research has been carried out on the way that students are actually engaging with the courses.
Now, a group of researchers in the US has done the first relatively detailed study of student behaviour in the MOOCosphere. The study is described in a paper published on the arXiv preprint server with lead author Ashton Anderson, a computer scientist at Stanford University. Anderson and his team examined the behaviour of the student population in courses offered by Stanford through Coursera, one of the major MOOC providers. The courses were on the topics of machine learning and probabilistic graphical models. After reading the study, it seems to me that the “take away” message is that MOOC students have many different motivations for taking these courses and as a result they behave in an assortment of ways, distinct from classrooms in the real world.
By Tushna Commissariat
Who doesn’t like a bit of help with their homework – not 4-year-old Lucas Whiteley from West Yorkshire in the UK. When faced with some tough and rather complex scientific questions, the enterprising child filmed a video of himself asking the US space agency NASA for some help. And much to his delight, he got a video response courtesy of NASA engineer Ted Garbeff of the Ames Research Center in California. In the 10-minute video, Garbeff answers Whiteley’s questions including “How many stars are there?” and “Did any animals go to the Moon?” Of course, the story garnered nation-wide interest and was covered by the Huffington Post, the Telegraph and others. Take a look at Garbeff’s response video above.
By Michael Banks
All eyes will be on Stockholm next week as the 2013 Nobel Prize for Physics is announced. One of the frontrunners for the prize in the minds of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences will surely be the discovery last year of the Higgs boson at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
But the LHC story is far from over and in the latest Physics World focus issue on “big science” find out how the LHC will hunt for new particles beyond the Higgs boson once the collider restarts in 2015 following an 18-month repair and upgrade programme at the Geneva-based lab.
All full members of the Institute of Physics will receive a print edition of the focus issue along with their copy of the October issue of Physics World, but everyone can access a free digital edition. The focus issue also looks at how particle physicists are already thinking about what could come after the LHC, with bold plans for a 80–100 km proton–proton collider. There are even plans for a collider based on lasers, with an international team looking at creating an array of “fibre lasers” to be used as a future “Higgs factory”.
By Tushna Commissariat
Each week, all of us here at Physics World comb the Internet for all things physics – we look at national and local newspapers, university news outlets, a variety of magazines, science websites and blogs, and, of course, all the latest scientific papers. We then pool our research and pick the cream of our crop to report on. But we can’t always cover all the interesting bits of physics news that we have chanced upon and a lot of good stuff is left behind in a red folder. So, starting from today, at the end of each week we’ve decided to point all of you, our eager readers, to the stories that have caught our fancy but not made it to the site yet and leave you with some extra weekend reading from The Red Folder.
By Matin Durrani
How well would you do if someone asked you to explain the Higgs boson or the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN?
If you’re a physicist, you’ll probably find it hard enough. But if you’ve never done any physics in your life, things must surely be trickier still, more so if a film crew from Physics World has shoved a camera up your nose.
These two short videos show the results of a straw poll of randomly selected visitors at last summer’s Bristol International Balloon Fiesta when we asked them to describe the Higgs boson and the LHC.
The reason we were at the fiesta is that we were making a separate film about a project by Bristol University physicist Dave Cussans where school students were measuring cosmic rays during a hot-air balloon flight – it being the centenary of Victor Hess’s discovery of these rays in a balloon flight in central Europe.
By Tushna Commissariat
The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) has just unveiled a portrait of famed physicist Peter Higgs, at the Society’s Fellows’ Summer Reception last week. The painting, which will hang on the walls of the Kelvin Room within the RSE’s premises in Edinburgh, was commissioned to one of Scotland’s leading artists, Victoria Crowe, “to honour the man whose outstanding research was instrumental in [the Higgs boson’s] discovery”. The professor seems distinctly unperturbed by the high-energy proton–proton collision taking place in the top right corner of the painting. I shall leave you to find and discern the other interesting imagery in the painting for yourselves – click on the thumbnail to view a larger picture of the portrait.
By Hamish Johnston at CERN
Today I had the immense good fortune of seeing the insides of the CMS detector at CERN.
The huge detector was pulled open and I could see all the various layers that are used to track the vast numbers of particles that are produced when protons collide at the Large Hadron Collider.
Unlike earlier photos of the detector that were taken when it was being built, the beamline is still intact as it passes through the CMS – a plain black conduit suspended many metres above the floor. You can see the beamline poking out from the centre of the detector in the photo on the right.
Imperial College’s Jim Virdee was our tour guide, and he told us how several military technologies from the former Soviet Union have been put to good use in the detector. These include brass shell casings that were melted down to make components for the detector.
By Hamish Johnston
“Beyond any reasonable doubt, it is a Higgs boson, and here we examine the extent to which its couplings resemble those of the single Higgs boson of the Standard Model.”
That’s taken from the abstract of a new paper by John Ellis and Tevong You of King’s College London. Ellis, of course, has been associated with CERN for decades and if he says it’s a Higgs that’s good enough for me!