Monday, September 8, 2008

UIS professors to discuss "most grandiose experiment"

On the border between France and Switzerland, in a tunnel deep underground, a project is underway that promises to be "the most grandiose experiment in the history of science," according to an astronomer at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Charles Schweighauser, professor of Astronomy/Physics at UIS, says that the experiment -- being conducted by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and involving the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) – will attempt to answer questions like "What is matter?" "What was matter like within the first second of the Universe's life?" and "Do extra dimensions of space really exist?"

Schweighauser says the scientific community is anticipating results that may very well open up a whole new way of looking at the Universe. "Our understanding of the Universe is about to change," he notes. "A lot of physicists will be disappointed if a whole new Physics doesn't come out of this experiment."

The LHC will be activated on September 10.

To help the public gain some sense of the scope and importance of the experiment, Schweighauser and two other UIS professors will present "Discovering a More Beautiful Universe with the Large Hadron Collider" beginning at 2 p.m. on Sunday, September 28, in conference room F, located on the lower level of the Public Affairs Center at UIS. The illustrated program will be presented for a general audience and is free and open to the public.

Schweighauser will facilitate the discussion and will begin the program with "The Large Hadron Collider and How it Works," a discussion of the instrument itself.

Following Schweighauser's presentation, Dr. Hei Chi Chan, associate professor of Mathematical Sciences, will discuss "The Physics behind the Experiment: What they're looking for and hope to find."

Following Chan, Dr. John Martin, assistant professor of Astronomy/Physics, will speak on "The Physics Involved and How It Relates to the Early Universe," an examination of what the experiment may reveal about many unanswered questions on how the Universe evolved.

A question-and-answer session will follow the three presentations.

The Large Hadron Collider is a gigantic particle accelerator housed in a 27-kilometre tunnel near Geneva, Switzerland, and relies on technologies that until recently did not exist. LHC experiments are expected to provide insights into questions such as what gives matter its mass, what the invisible 96 percent of the Universe is made of, why nature prefers matter to antimatter, and how matter evolved from the first instants of the Universe's existence.

CERN is the world's leading laboratory for particle physics. Headquartered in Geneva, it has 20 member nations; six other countries including the United States, as well as two international organizations, have been granted Observer status. CERN is one of the world's largest and most respected centers for scientific research. Its business is fundamental physics, finding out what the Universe is made of and how it works.

For more information, contact Schweighauser at 217/206-6721.

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