Lancaster University

This is archived news from Lancaster University. You can find up-to-date stories in our current news section.

Researchers anticipate record breaking ‘big bang’ data

03/29/2010 17:01:29

Lancaster scientists are eagerly awaiting the new data as the Large Hadron Collider prepares to smash its own record for the highest energy particle collider.

On Tuesday 30th March the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland will attempt to begin colliding particles at an energy three and a half times higher than the next most powerful facility, at Fermilab in Chicago.

Lancaster physicists on the largest of the experiments, ATLAS, will be searching through the traces of the particles produced in the collisions for traces of new physics.

Professor Roger Jones, head of the Lancaster ATLAS group, will be shuttling between a conference in London where some of the data already collected before Christmas will be presented, the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) in Oxfordshire, and then hopes to join the team in Geneva.

At RAL, a major computing centre will be formally opened, that will help process the ATLAS data in tandem with large facilities such as the High End Computer Centre at Lancaster.

Professor Jones is in charge of the computing for ATLAS in the UK.

He said: “We have built a huge world-wide system of computers to store and analyse the ATLAS data, and it is working incredibly well so far – but now the real work begins!”

Dr James Catmore is already based in Geneva, and jointly heads the team looking at the physics of some of the heaviest particles seen so far, so-called ‘beauty’ particles.

They will be looking in the data to ensure that both nature and the ATLAS detector are behaving as expected, so that any indications of new phenomena that may be observed can be understood with confidence.

He said: “This is a very exciting time to be working in physics; lots of young physicists and postgraduate students will be combing the data with computer programmes, and also by looking at interesting events on graphical displays, in a friendly competition to seek what surprises are in store.”

The Lancaster group is working on many major questions; the origin of mass and the search for the so-called Higgs particle; the reason for the absence of antimatter in our everyday world; and the search for candidates to explain the mysterious dark matter that makes up much of the universe.

Particle Physics and Accelerator Science are vital tools for attempting to understand what the universe is made up of, by breaking it down into its tiniest constituents. To do this scientists recreate the moments after the big bang by using a particle accelerator – a high-energy machine that speeds particles up using high-frequency electric fields. As they approach the speed of light, they collide with one another breaking down into smaller units – the fundamental building blocks which make up the universe.