You may often wonder about how the things around you work.  How does a car engine work?  How do cells carry out their functions?  Why does the tide rise and fall?  Safely, most of us will agree that research is about seeking answers to questions—whatever they may be.  Physicists take it to the most fundamental level in asking, “What is everything made of?”  Of course, answering this question is a serious undertaking but it is one which Brian Cox, professor of particle physics at Manchester University, helps put into perspective in his discussion on the CERN Supercollider in this TED Talk video.

TED Talk: ATLAS

Hopefully, Brian Cox is familiar.  Like me, you may know him as the host of the original BBC series “Wonders of the Solar System” (inspiration for blog title) which also airs in the U.S. on the Discovery and Science Channel .   Or…you may know him as a rock star from his days as a member of the bands D:Ream and Dare.  Regardless, Cox is phenomenal at explaining some difficult science for those of us who don’t study physics.

Note that this TED talk is from a few years ago but I think this helps us appreciate the current work which is being done today.  Today, there are a multitude of projects being conducted by hundreds of researchers at CERN and around the world, showing that science is indeed a collaborative effort.  One of the major projects includes ATLAS, the experiment which is concerned with finding the elusive Higgs Boson.  As Cox explains in the talk, the Higgs Boson is believed to account for the mass of all other particles.

 

The 12 fundamental particles according to the Standard Model

Finding evidence for this particle is crucial to supporting the Standard Model for particle physics.  In essence, this model provides the framework for our universe.  Last month the ATLAS project was scheduled to complete particle collisions and in the next two years researchers plan to continue data collection.   For now, the Higgs Boson has remained undetected.

 

The LHC by Flickr user Image Editor

The physics involved in the ATLAS project and others at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is obviously complex and as a biology student I do not claim to be the expert on those kinds of details.  What I do want to emphasis is that the LHC experiments and those of research institutions like UNC are important.   At the LHC the focus is to seek an understanding of how particles function to interact with each other and the physical forces.  Truly, it is astounding that those particles are us and everything around us.  The “everything” is exactly what researchers are interested in when proposing their questions, some of which will be presented here.

 

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