Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pieces of Protons - Coming Saturday 11/19/11

The proton-accelerating tube underground
at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC)
Howdy friends! I've been looking forward to this coming Saturday's program for a long time! Here is the official description, then I'll tell you more about why I'm so excited...

Ramping Up the World's Greatest Physics Experiment
Dr. Flera Rizatdinova from the Oklahoma State University Department of Physics will speak about her work on the ATLAS detector at CERN's Large Hadron Collider. The ATLAS is a marvel of technology built to explore dark matter, gravity, the standard model, and other deep mysteries of the universe!

We will be talking about the fundamental building blocks of the universe! Did you know that everything you see and feel around you is basically made out of super tiny particles called quarks and electrons? Those are two of the fundamental particles that make up our Standard Model of the universe. 

Dr. Rizatdinova was kind enough to drive all the way to Texas and back to pick up a piece of equipment called a cloud chamber that detects other fundamental particles called muons. Muons are similar to electrons. They are generated by cosmic rays and they are zipping around us all the time - we just can't see them. 

But when they zip through the cloud chamber - we will see their trails!

That's one reason I'm so excited. Another is that the ATLAS detector and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) are FAMOUS!! If you listen to any science news then you will hear them mentioned a lot.

The ATLAS is like a gigantic microscope, for looking at the tiniest things! And it's the world's largest physics experiment! 

There are several new things physicists might discover with the ATLAS. One of them is the famed Higg's Boson, which is the last missing piece in our Standard Model of the universe. If they find it, we'll have a complete understanding of how the universe is put together. If they don't, then our Standard Model is wrong, and we'll have to come up with a new one to explain how things work. 

Either way is exciting! And the Higg's could literally be discovered any day now. So we are witnessing history in the making!

I've been studying particle physics to get ready for this program, and let me tell you, it's weird! If you don't understand everything on Saturday, don't feel bad. Even the physicists who study this stuff don't really quite understand it. But that's what makes it so much fun!

If you want to prepare for Saturday, here are some websites to visit. In fact PLEASE visit these sites and learn all you can! I think you'll enjoy them...

Have fun exploring and I'll see you Saturday, 10:00 AM at the Stillwater Public Library!

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