On the cold autumn morning of the 11th October over 20 physics students and I took a train up to London to visit the Royal Institution of Great Britain. Having a little time to spare before the lectures we decided to make the obligatory trip to the café before we were ushered up a staircase that spiraled around an impressive, ancient looking lift.

Professor Tara Shears, a particle physicist and Professor of Physics at the University of Liverpool, began her talk with a brief overview of our current understanding of the particles that make up our universe. From quarks to bosons we were given a crash course in the Standard Model before we were plunged into all the unknowns and possibilities of modern particle physics. Is the standard model correct? Does the Higgs boson exist? If the Higgs does exist, is it the Standard Model Higgs? Many of these questions remained unanswered, however she went on to explain how experiments at CERN are attempting to gain these answers and understand why there is so little anti-matter in the universe, what dark matter is and many other questions concerning the Standard Model and the nature of the universe.

Another interesting concept introduced was the fact that the mathematical equation that describes the universe can fit onto a t-shirt. (pictured below)

I found this incredibly strange how something so large can be described by an equation that is relatively small (as far as mathematical equations go).

The results found at CERN (or lack of them) were very interesting and Professor Shears explained that even though the scientists studying the possibility of super-symmetric particles (colloquially called SUSY) have not found anything yet, they are still persevering with the theory and continue to experiment to try and fin the ever elusive answers. The researches even published a table of results entitled ‘The “we did not find SUSY” plot’.

Overall the lecture was incredibly interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This definitely makes me want to research more about CERN and its work in particle physics, and now I would really like to go and see it! Thank you Mr Saunders for arranging the trip and for herding us through London Victoria Station.

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