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Electrons to Quarks

Posted on: 11/03/2019

A Map of the Invisible: Discoveries of elementary particles, Electrons to Quarks and the Higgs boson Year 12 Physics students attended a UCL lecture at the Christopher Ingold Building in London where Professor Jon Butterworth gave a presentation to an enraptured audience of students and teachers. Professor Butterworth talked about his contributions to the ongoing experiments in CERN, Geneva where scientists are using the world’s largest particle collider to re-create the conditions that existed nanoseconds after the Big Bang. In his compelling book “A Map of the Invisible: Journeys into Particle Physics”, Professor Butterworth has imagined a map of discoveries of the sub-atomic world and recast them as an map one might find in an adventure story. Using this map, Butterworth guided us through each elementary particle found in the Standard Model, from the electron to the Higgs boson, as well as particles and fields whose existence is unconfirmed. Professor Butterworth summarised each particle with great clarity, engagement and attentiveness, explaining how each particle was discovered and how they interact with one another.

Professor Butterworth described his work on the famous Higgs boson, the existence of which was confirmed by the Large Hardon Collider at CERN in 2012. By colliding beams of protons travelling at close to the speed of light, Professor Butteroworth helped observe the fragments from such collisions and eventually pinpointed the existence of the elusive Higgs boson.

Finding the Higgs boson was so important because it adds further support to the Standard Model which includes the Higgs field. Furthermore, the discovery explains that the mass of other particles particle (such as an electron) is determined by how it interacts with the Higgs field.

Professor Butterworth concluded his lecture in manner characteristic of a scientist at the forefront of his field, by stating that this not end of the story: there is a lot more yet to be discovered which will drastically improve our knowledge of the where the universe came from, and where it will end up. Like intrepid sailors, scientists’ exploration of the map into the unknown will bring light to our ideas of antimatter, dark matter, and electron neutrinos. Such research promises to paint an even stranger and marvellous picture of our Universe.

Sameer Helaman (6HME)

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