Unlocking the secrets of the universe

Edinburgh scientists play a key role in research aiming to understand the composition of the universe.

Hadron collider

Academics from the School of Physics & Astronomy are part of the significant developments at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN).

Physicists from the University of Edinburgh are working at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and were there in March 2010 when it started to smash sub-atomic particles together with a record level of energy - 7 trillion electron-volts (TeV). The powerful particle collisions mark the beginning of LHC’s first high-energy activity.

Experiments at the LHC will collect data that may provide evidence of the Higgs boson. The existence of this theoretical particle was first postulated by Professor Peter Higgs when he was a researcher at the University in the 1960s. It will be a remarkable achievement for physics if his predictions are correct.

Big Bang conditions

About 20 physicists from the University perform research at CERN, working on the ATLAS and LHCb detectors which analyse collision data from the LHC as it recreates the conditions of the Big Bang.

ATLAS is a virtual United Nations of 37 countries, and international collaboration has been essential to this success. These physicists come from more than 173 universities and laboratories and include 1000 students. ATLAS is one of the largest collaborative efforts ever attempted in the physical sciences.

Edinburgh researchers’ work on ATLAS involves modelling and simulating the particle collision process to help understand the detector’s response and the complex data produced by the experiments. They also contribute to the operation of the ATLAS detector itself and provide software to manage the data produced.

We are delighted to be involved with CERN as the new high-energy run gets under way. The Large Hadron Collider is expected to advance significantly our knowledge of physics and as such represents an enormously important development.

Dr Philip Clark

School of Physics and Astronomy

The LHC research may shed light on other important unsolved questions in physics. These include furthering scientists’ knowledge of dark matter and explaining why the Universe is made from matter, not anti-matter.

Today is the start of a new era for particle physics. We have worked hard over more than a decade to design, build and commission our experiments. Thus we are very excited to have started data-taking at the LHC. This is a giant step into unknown territory and the LHC will hopefully reveal a few secrets of Nature.

Professor Franz Muheim

School of Physics and Astronomy

Related links

Accessibility menu