Particle Physics, or more accurately High Energy Particle Physics, is arguably the most elegant, the most poetic, the most beautiful branches of the physical sciences.
In 1969, Robert Wilson – the man responsible for the construction of Fermilab, the National Accelerator Facility in Illinois, was called to justify the multimillion-dollar machine to the Congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. He was asked to explain what contribution he expected the accelerator to make to National Defense. He had this to say:
It has only to do with the respect with which we regard one another, the dignity of men, our love of culture. It has to do with: Are we good painters, good sculptors, great poets? I mean all the things we really venerate in our country and are patriotic about. It has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to make it worth defending.
But if you ask the person in the street, how much would they be able to tell you about what high energy physicists know about the Universe? Or what a Higgs boson is? Or why we care?
We’ve touched on these questions before, but never with a real live particle physicist. And with increasing chatter about an intriguing feature in the data coming out of the Large Hadron Collider at Cern, we felt it was time to bring one on.
So in this episode, we grapple these and many other questions about the subatomic world with Professor Jonathan Butterworth live from Geneva.
And if you want to know more we heartily recommend you check out Jon’s blog, Life and Physics, at The Guardian.