Thousands of researchers around the globe are participating in what’s been dubbed the world’s largest science experiment – a particle accelerator in Switzerland called the Large Hadron Collider.
It smashes atoms together at incredible speeds so scientists can analyze the reactions. One of the central players is a North Texan. Kendall Reeves of the University of Texas at Dallas is the operations manager for the ATLAS detector, a major component of the Large Hadron Collider. He recently talked with KERA's Justin Martin.
Interview Highlights: Kendall Reeves ...
... on the nature of the Large Hadron Collider:
"The LHC is the world's largest, most powerful particle accelerator. It's constructed in a circular tunnel that's about 17 miles in circumference and it's located just outside the city of Geneva. In fact, it passed fairly closely to the Geneva airport."
... on the ATLAS detector:
"ATLAS is actually one of two general purpose detectors at the LHC -- and that just means that it tries to fully reconstruct the events that occur when protons collide. Now it's been designed to fully surround the interaction point, which is where these collisions occur, and it's extremely large. It's about 50 yards long, so if you imagine a football field -- it would extend from the midfield line to one of the goal lines. It's just over 80 feet in diameter, so it's also about as tall as an eight-story building."
... on how many people work on ATLAS:
"At the moment there are about 3,000 people collaborating on ATLAS."
... on the role UT-Dallas students play:
"During run 1, we had a few students here and during that time they were actually taking shifts in the ATLAS control room. So they were at that point monitoring the detector to make sure it was operating correctly and looking at the data coming in -- to make sure that looked alright."
... on how UT-Dallas got involved with the LHC:
"UTD, as I recall, joined ATLAS back in 2007. They had been involved in another experiment and at that point their experiment 'BaBar' was coming to an end. So since all roads at this point were sort of leading towards CERN, it was a rather natural transition for them to make."
... on the nature of Higgs Boson:
"The theory that we work with in particle physics we refer to as the standard model -- and the standard model does a really good job of explaining just about everything we know about matter and how matter interacts. But we've always had to assume the existence of the Higgs Boson or it would have suggested that all particles have no mass and they are always traveling at the speed of light. Now, since that's not what we observe -- we had to assume that the Higgs was there -- up until about 2012, which is when we observed it."
... on the next big challenge for the collider:
"Well, the LHC ended it's first run in 2013. Since then, there's been a huge effort to prepare the accelerator to operate at higher energies."
... on the next run date for the Large Hadron Collider:
"At the moment, the LHC is scheduled to start providing physics data in May of next year. So it'll actually turn on late February, early March, and start doing machine studies to prepare for what we will hope be a long and successful run."