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Tag archives: particle physics

Higgs MOOC sees spike in interest after Nobel

Peter Higgs and François Englert,

Peter Higgs (left) and François Englert, winners of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Physics. (Courtesy: Dirk Dahmer; CERN)

By James Dacey

The story goes that on the morning of this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics announcement, Peter Higgs had popped out for a leisurely lunch at a local pub without telling his colleagues at the University of Edinburgh. It meant that the Nobel prize committee in Stockholm was left scrabbling around trying to contact Higgs on several numbers, to no avail. We heard from François Englert in the slightly awkward phone conversation that customarily follows the prize announcement. But there was still no sign of the elusive Prof. Higgs.

Well fear not, because we will finally get to hear from the man behind the boson about his crowning achievement, via a free online course offered by the University of Edinburgh. The Discovery of the Higgs Boson is a seven-week course “about developments at the Large Hadron Collider, particle physics and understanding the universe”. Registration is already open for the massive open online course (MOOC), which starts on 10 February. It will feature interviews with Higgs himself and filmed lectures by a team of particle physicists at the University of Edinburgh, along with additional material including notes and further videos for more advanced students.

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Days out at CERN, serendipitous songs, shaken scientists and more

By Tushna Commissariat

A peek into the Red Folder this week brings up the CERN Open Days – the biggest particle-physics laboratory in the world will allow people from all over the globe to roam its hallowed halls freely for this weekend. While the most exciting part of the event will undoubtedly be visits into the underground caverns that host the Large Hadron Collider’s experiments, a whole host of other activities for researchers, science enthusiasts and children are available. Also this weekend, as a part of the European Researcher’s Night festivities, CERN will be hosting events in Paris, Geneva and Bologna for their Origins 2013 event that looks at two big scientific discovers made in the past two years: the discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN and the latest Planck mission data. For those of you attending, “Speed-dating – close encounters with researchers” definitely caught our eye. Those of us not fortunate enough to be in any of those places can watch many of the festivities via a live webcast. And lastly, you can explore CERN from the inside on Google Maps with Street View.

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Boom boom! CERN hosts first ever comedy night

By Matin Durrani

Flyer of CERN Comeday Show event

Laugh out loud – CERN’s first ever stand-up comedy show. (Click to view details)

Being funny is hard.

(“I’ve just been on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. I’ll tell you what, never again.”)

Being funny about physics is even harder.

(“So what’s new?”
“Oh you know: E over h.”)

And being funny about physics at CERN’s first ever official stand-up comedy night is likely to be trickier still.

So good luck is what I say to those involved in the LHComedy event, which takes place on Friday 30 August from 7.30 to 11.30 p.m. (Central European Time) at CERN’s Globe of Science and Innovation in Geneva.

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Paul Frampton: the movie

By Matin Durrani

Photograph of Paul Frampton

The strange story of physicist Paul Frampton could be made into a film.

The story of Paul Frampton is so incredible that it’s hard to believe it really happened. How could anyone have been so foolish and left his family, colleagues and students in the lurch?

In case you don’t remember, Frampton is the 69-year-old British-born US-based theoretical physicist who in early 2012 travelled to Bolivia expecting to meet a 32-year-old woman he’d struck up a correspondence with on the Internet, who claimed to be the Czech-born lingerie model Denise Milani.

But when he arrived in Bolivia, Milani was nowhere to be seen and Frampton was instead met by a man who asked him to take what was supposedly Milani’s suitcase to Buenos Aires, where she would then meet him.

When Milani didn’t show up at Buenos Aires Airport either – and there has been no suggestion that she knew that her identity was being used – Frampton tried to board a plane back to the US but was arrested after airport-security officials discovered 2 kg of cocaine in his checked luggage. Although he insisted the drugs were not his, Frampton was sentenced in November 2012 to 56 months in jail, despite a campaign by physicists to clear his name.

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Particle art lights up Victorian ice well

By James Dacey

Photograph of art installation Covariance

Covariance includes 28,000 glass beads and 36,000 diamantés. (Courtesy: Richard Davies)

“The finished work is everything I had hoped for and more – it takes my breath away!”

That was the reaction of artist Lyndall Phelps upon seeing her physics-inspired installation in London, which will open to the public this Saturday. Entitled Covariance, the work was inspired by the SuperKamiokande neutrino observatory in Japan – reflecting the machinery of particle detectors and the way in which particle physicists visualize their data. The kaleidoscopic artwork is housed in a Victorian ice well beneath the London Canal Museum, in reference to the subterranean location of many large particle-physics experiments.

Phelps is an artist who often creates works inspired by science, where she looks in particular for the personal and emotive themes that can exist within academia. For this latest project, she worked in collaboration with Ben Still, a particle physicist from Queen Mary, University of London. The pair was commissioned to work on the project by the Institute of Physics (IOP) as the first in a programme of artists-in-residence called Superposition.

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Close encounters of the muon kind

Photo of g-2 magnet

G-2 electromagnet at the Hidden Lake Forest Preserve. (Courtesy: Reidar Hahn/Fermilab)

By James Dacey

Don’t worry, the aliens haven’t landed. The people in this photo are watching with excitement shortly before this giant electromagnet completed its 5000 km journey on Friday to arrive at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory just outside Chicago. The 15 m-wide ring that weighs more than 15,000 kg has been travelling for the past five weeks by land and sea from its previous home on Long Island in New York State.

The giant electromagnet has served as part of the Muon g-2 experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory. This experiment – to describe it crudely – is designed to measure how muons wobble in a magnetic field, as many believe this will provide clues to new physics beyond the Standard Model. This experiment is now relocating to Fermilab, which offers a more intense and pure beam of muons than the Brookhaven lab.

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T2K discovery puts neutrino oscillation beyond doubt

The SuperKamiokande detector lies 1 km underground in the Mozumi mine in the city of Hida. (Courtesy: Kamioka Observatory, Institute for Cosmic Ray Research, University of Tokyo)

The SuperKamiokande detector lies 1 km underground in the Mozumi mine in the city of Hida. (Courtesy: Kamioka Observatory, Institute for Cosmic Ray Research, University of Tokyo)

By Hamish Johnston

Physicists working on the Tokai to Kamiokande (T2K) experiment have confirmed what many have suspected for nearly three decades – over time, a neutrino of one flavour will change into a neutrino of another flavour in a process called neutrino oscillation.

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GERDA puts new limit on neutrinoless double beta decay

The GERDA experiment at Gran Sasso (Courtesy: INFN)

The GERDA experiment at Gran Sasso. (Courtesy: INFN)

By Hamish Johnston

This stylish chap is looking for an incredibly rare nuclear process called neutrinoless double beta decay. The picture was taken deep under a mountain at Italy’s Gran Sasso National Laboratory, which is about 160 km north-west of Rome. He is standing in a cavern containing the GERDA experiment, which has been searching for the rare decay since 2011.

GERDA hasn’t actually detected a decay event, but the collaboration claims to have measured the best value yet of the lower limit on its half-life in germanium-76. They researchers say that it’s about 2.1 × 1025 years – or 21 yottayears!

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Explaining CERN, the Higgs and the LHC

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.

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Nigel Lockyer to take the reins at Fermilab

Nigel lockyer

TRIUMF’s Nigel Lockyer will soon be Chicago bound. (Courtesy: TRIUMF)

By Hamish Johnston

The particle physicist Nigel Lockyer will take over as director of Fermilab in September this year. Lockyer is currently in charge of TRIUMF in Vancouver, Canada. He will succeed Pier Oddone, who is stepping down after heading Fermilab for eight years.

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