Recipe for an universe: Physics at the energy frontier

Safety training at CERN, home to the Large Hadron Collider

On November 17, 2013, Peace Lutheran Church (Alexandria, VA) hosted a multi-media presentation about high-energy physics given by Dr. Randal Ruchti, Professor of High Energy Particle Physics, University of Notre Dame, and Program Director, Physics Division, National Science Foundation. Particle physicists study the fundamental particles and interactions on which the universe is built.

Ruchti described the search for the Higgs-Boson particle, opening his talk with an image and a joke about the Higgs Boson. His presentation focused upon experiments done at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), located in Geneva, Switzerland and built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN.) On July 4, 2012, CERN researchers announced that experiments at the LHC had discovered a particle matching the description of the Higgs particle (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/nobel-physics-prize-higgs-englert/). Notre Dame researchers were involved in the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment that records the particle collisions generated by the LHC.

Ruchti brought a portable cosmic-ray detector, pioneered at Notre Dame, to his presentation. The detector is based upon scintillating fiber optic plate technology. It is housed in a light-tight box and powered by a 9-volt battery. The device Ruchti brought had been built by high school students. The device detects and optically amplifies the tracks of cosmic rays so that they can be seen by the naked eye or with a simple video camera.

Ruchti is one of the cofounders of QuarkNet, which consists of over 50 Centers in 25 states and Puerto Rico, and has an annual participation of over 450 high school teachers, 100 high school students, and 150 particle physicist mentors.

Photo by Maximilien Brice/CERN

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