Lancaster scientists part of Nobel Prize winning discovery

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Physicists at Lancaster University have welcomed the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Physics to Professor Peter Higgs of Edinburgh University, and Belgian particle physicist Francois Englert, who will share the prestigious accolade and £780,000 prize money.

The pair who were expected to pick up the prize, where credited by the Nobel Prize jury for “the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of sub-atomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle.”

Thousands of scientists from around the world have come together to work on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland.

The Lancaster ATLAS Group has been involved in the research since its early stages through various leadership roles and contribution in the development and construction of the particle tracking detectors and software.

Lancaster also led ATLAS UK Computing Project, which was charged with the development and distribution of computing solutions to handle the 20 million gigabytes of data produced each year.

The data represents the results of the trillions of particle collisions that take place in the LHC every year.

Particles are sped around the 27 kilometre ring using superconducting magnets and a number of accelerating structures to boost their energy.

The experiment began as purely theoretical mathematics in 1964 when Peter Higgs hypothesised the existence of a universal molasses, otherwise known as the Higgs field, which gives fundamental particles their own mass due to the resistance they encounter whilst travelling through it.

Higgs believed that if two particles collided together at the speed of light then they could potentially severe off a very small piece of the molasses. It is approximated that only one in a trillion collisions proves successful, but on March 13 2013 a breakthrough was reached and the Higgs boson was discovered.

Professor Roger Jones, head of the Lancaster ATLAS team and lecturer at university spoke to the press office and said, “This award is truly well deserved; when proposed, the Higgs mechanism seemed like a very contrived way to save an otherwise incredibly successful theory, the Standard Model of particle physics. Now that we have discovered the particle Higgs predicted, the prescience seems uncanny.”

Dr. Katy Grimm, a research associate who worked alongside the ATLAS team sad, “It is great to be around at one of those significant moments in physics, and to be able to play a part in these developments.”

Other Nobel Prize winners for 2013:

Peace – Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons

Literature – Alice Munro for her short story writing.

Medicine – Rothman, Schekman and Sudhof for their work in intra-cellular transport systems.

Chemistry – Karplus, Levitt and Warshel, for development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.

 

 

 

 

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