ATLAS SCIENTISTS PUSHING PARTICLE PHYSICS INTO TERRA INCOGNITO
Vancouver - After a year of operation colliding protons at the highest energies ever achieved, scientists working on the ATLAS experiment at the CERN LHC laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland, are releasing breathtaking results that extend and expand our understanding of matter and its interactions. The LHC creates the hottest conditions ever achieved in a lab, reaching energy densities that existed a trillionth of a second after the universe was born in the big bang. This is the epoch when pure energy gained mass and became matter in the early universe, and understanding this transition is a fundamental goal of particle physics. With the enormous number of seminal new results being presented at the Europhysics Conference on High Energy Physics in Grenoble, France, this week, we are on the cusp of breakthroughs in our understanding of the origin and fate of the universe.
More than 150 Canadian scientists, about half students, lead international teams investigating the ATLAS data and pushing our knowledge into new territory.
The LHC has performed better in 2011 than even the optimistic expectations.
"So far we've collected as much data as was planned for the whole of 2011
and that's already a great achievement for the LHC," said CERN's Director
General Rolf Heuer. "While it's still too early for the biggest
discoveries, the experiments are already accumulating interesting results."
"Discovery or exclusion of the Higgs particle, as predicted by the Standard
Model of Particle Physics, is getting ever closer," said CERN's Director for
Research and Scientific Computing, Sergio Bertolucci. "Both occurrences will
be great news for physics, the former allowing us to start detailed study of
the Higgs particle, the latter being the first proof of the incompleteness
of the Standard Model, requiring new phenomena to be happening within the
reach of the LHC."
"Canadians can be particularly proud of the achievements of our students,
research fellows and faculty, leading to the fantastic scope and breadth of
the ATLAS results being released this week," said Robert McPherson from the
University of Victoria and Institute of Particle Physics, Spokesperson of
the Canadians working on ATLAS at the LHC. "Canadians lead efforts both
pinning down the interactions of known particles like the top quark, and
also searching for the new physics our theories demand such as the Higgs
Boson and Supersymmetry that should be accessible at the LHC."
Canadian groups made important contributions to the ATLAS experiment and to
the LHC itself. The TRIUMF lab in Vancouver hosts one of the ten "Tier-1"
data analysis centres that streams ATLAS data in real-time for physics
analysis. TRIUMF also built key parts of the LHC. Canadian groups from the
University of Alberta, University of British Columbia, Carleton University,
McGill University, University of Montreal, University of Regina, Simon
Fraser University, University of Toronto, University of Victoria and York
University, as well as the TRIUMF laboratory, built and operate critical
components of ATLAS. Canadian scientists, including about 80 graduate
students, 30 postdoctoral research fellows and 40 faculty members, continue
to lead ATLAS physics analysis efforts.