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Syracuse University researchers part of global scientific achievement in high-energy physics
Syracuse University researchers part of global scientific achievement in high-energy physicsSeptember 10, 2008Judy Holmesjlholmes@syr.edu
A team of Syracuse University scientists celebrated with thousands of scientists across the world as the first beam of protons zoomed at nearly the speed of light around the 17-mile Large Hadron Collider, located at the CERN laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, around 4 a.m. Syracuse time today. CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is the world’s leading laboratory for particle physics.
An estimated 10,000 people from 60 countries helped design and build the LHC accelerator and its massive particle detectors, including more than 1,700 scientists, engineers, students and technicians from 94 U.S. universities and laboratories supported by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science and the National Science Foundation.
SU researchers involved in the project are Sheldon Stone, Marina Artuso, Tomasz Skwarnicki and Steven Blusk. Stone and Artuso are currently working at CERN and witnessed the world’s most powerful particle accelerator come to life.
Starting up such a machine is not as simple as flipping a switch, according to the CERN web site. It’s a long process that starts with the cooling down of each of the machine’s eight sectors, followed by electrical testing of the 1,600 superconducting magnets and their individual powering to nominal operating current. These steps are followed by the powering together of all the circuits of each sector, and then of the eight independent sectors in unison in order to operate as a single machine.
“As the largest and most powerful particle accelerator on Earth, the LHC represents a monumental technical achievement,” says U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary for Science Raymond L. Orbach. “I congratulate the world’s scientists and engineers who have made contributions to the construction of the accelerator for reaching this milestone. We now eagerly await the results that will emerge from operation of this extraordinary machine.”
The first circulating beam is a major accomplishment on the way to the ultimate goal: high-energy beams colliding in the centers of the LHC’s complex particle detectors, which monitor the results of the collisions. SU researchers have been working on LHCb, one of four experimental collaborations located in the LHC ring. Their work has covered several areas. One area includes writing software to monitor the performance of the so-called “trigger,” which must sift through approximately 10 million collisions per second, and select only the 0.02 percent most interesting ones, all within a minute fraction of a second.
The group has also made key contributions to the most precise position-measuring device in LHCb, called the VELO, developing specialized tests to gain a better understanding of how the detector will perform under long-term exposure to the violent collisions in the LHC. The group has also played an important and leading role in developing the software infrastructure to align the thousands of independent detector components.
Once the LHC is fully operational, the SU researchers will join with colleagues across the world to analyze the data collected by the particle detectors in search of extraordinary discoveries about the nature of the physical universe. Beyond revealing a new world of unknown particles, the LHC experiments could explain why those particles exist and behave as they do. They could reveal the origins of mass, shed light on dark matter, uncover hidden symmetries of the universe and possibly find extra dimensions of space.
“This national and international collaboration of unprecedented scope, and our investment in basic science, fundamental to the NSF mission, provide an exciting opportunity to solve some of the core mysteries of the universe,” said Arden L. Bement, Jr., director of the NSF. “With the operation of the LHC, anticipation of transformative scientific discoveries soars to new heights.”
CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is the world’s leading laboratory for particle physics. It has its headquarters in Geneva. At present, its Member States are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. India, Israel, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United States of America, Turkey, the European Commission and UNESCO have Observer status.