Texas Tech Professors Host Open House Explaining International Search for Rosetta Stone of Physics

Researchers hope to solve some of the universe’s most mind-blowing riddles.

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Construction of equipment scientists hope will unravel mystery of matter.

A team of Texas Tech University physics researchers held an open house and public lecture in September to celebrate the particle beam test of the world’s largest particle collider.

The open house event, which explained one of the largest experiments ever undertaken by man, sought to show the general public what the $10 billion collider hopes to solve when it is activated and atoms are smashed into tiny particles that are, as yet, still theoretical.

The actual test run commenced at 2 a.m. Central Daylight Time on Sept. 10 in Geneva.

“We wanted to show the students and the community what we are doing there,” said Nural Akchurin, chairman of the Department of Physics and a calorimeter projector manager at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN. “We want to educate people about why we’re doing what we’re doing, and show them that, yes, even out here in West Texas, we are involved in this huge international experiment.”

About 3,000 international researchers are involved in the project deep beneath the Jura Mountains.

Texas Tech has supplied the calorimeters for this project. These devices will serve as the catchers’ mitts that researchers hope will capture proof of a particle called a Higgs boson, which is theoretically responsible for giving mass to subatomic particles.

“In the most vanilla version of the Higgs theory,” he said, “You need some mechanism through which to give mass to electrons and protons. If you have Higgs, you can explain everything – or nearly most things.”

Simply put – but perhaps too simply – these scientists hope the $8 billion Large Hadron Collider and Compact Muon Solenoid will prove the existence of matter’s smallest building blocks. Though originally slated to commence Oct. 21, the project has come to a halt for at least two more months by what researchers estimated was a faulty electrical connection.

“This is much bigger than the atom bomb,” Akchurin said. “If this project finds nothing but Higgs, that’s huge. If this experiment finds nothing at all, I think that’s equally as big because we’ll have to rethink many other theories. Whatever comes out of this will be interesting.”

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Nural Akchurin is chairman of the Department of Physics in the College of Arts and Sciences.

In the last decade, Akchurin has helped develop new calorimeter technologies and build detectors for the Compact Muon Solenoid at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

View his profile in our online Experts Guide.

Related

CERN is the European Organization for Nuclear Research. The world's largest particle physics center located in Geneva.

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