Perimeter Institute Lecture

March 19, 2008


The first lecture at the Bruce County Museum and  Cultural Centre took place at 2 pm on Wednesday March 19, 2008.  The lectures are done on high quality DVD on a large screen.

The subject of today's lecture was the fantastic Hadron Collider at CERN. It is certainly the largest and most complicated machine ever produced by man. 

The lecture featured Dr. John Ellis (L) of CERN and Dr. Robert Orr of the University of Toronto.  Dr. Ellis led off with a tour de force explanation that included what the machine was designed to detect and the monumental scale of it.  In sheer size it is the largest machine every built being 26.6 kilometers in circumference and averaging  a 100 meters and more below the surface in bedrock.

The instrumentation is so delicate that it has to account for the pull of the moon and rainfall.  That is, the movement of the bedrock due to these two forces.

What is the Purpose?

When activated, it is theorized that the collider will produce the elusive Higgs boson, the observation of which could confirm the predictions and 'missing links' in the Standard Model of physics and could explain how other elementary particles acquire properties such as mass. The verification of the existence of the Higgs boson would be a significant step in the search for a Grand Unified Theory, which seeks to unify three of the four fundamental forces: electromagnetism, the strong force, and the weak force.

The Unified Theory has eluded the best minds and was searched for by Einstein in the last half of his life.

The Collider is designed to investigate the basic building blocks and secrets of nature. It may solve some mysteries and find new ones. Going beyond the discoveries of the atom, they will investigate the mysteries of what lies below the atomic model that we became familiar with in the past.  They hope to get an idea about not only what is below the atomic level, but also the forces involved that hold the nucleus together.


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How Does it Work?

The collider tunnel contains two pipes enclosed within superconducting magnets cooled by liquid helium, each pipe containing a proton beam. The two beams travel in opposite directions around the ring. Additional magnets are used to direct the beams to four intersection points where interactions between them will take place. In total, over 1600 superconducting magnets are installed, with most weighing over 27 tonnes.

At these four points are cylindrical onion type instruments of monumental size which capture the results of any collisions that take place.  These collisions will produce a 'shower' of information that is captured by the instrument layers.

The bandwidth of the information produced is of course at or near the speed of light and is 'caught' by the layers of the detectors and reduced to something that can be interpreted by other computers and finally man. 

There is a network of computers on an ultra high speed fiber optic path that goes across Canada from University to University and Research location to Research location

Who is Involved?

More that 2000 scientists and engineers are involved from over 34 countries.  Once in operation, these numbers will rise to 7000 scientists and 80 countries.  Canada has a key role in construction and a number of Ontario companies are involved in the instrumentation and construction of the Magnificent Machine.

Upcoming Lectures

Please see our write-up on the PI series at the Museum

Note that the Hadron Lecture was substituted for the lead off lecture on Rocketeers which will be shown April 2nd.  Don't miss any of these.