Oxford Physics

A.J. Barr





Engagement, media, policy


Prof Alan J. Barr

What we do

My collaborators and I work with the world's most powerful particle accelerator called the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The machine is in a 17-mile long circular tunnel one hundred meters underground on the Swiss-French boarder near Geneva. It is the world's most powerful accelerator, producing collisions a million times more energetic than occur in the sun.

The extremely high energy is required to create very massive particles. This can be seen from Einstein's famous formula E=mc2 which relates the energy of a collision with the mass of the particles it can produce. We hope to create some very heavy particles, a thousand times heavier than the proton and neutron which exist in normal matter.

These heavy-weight particles are thought to have been created in the very first fraction of a second after the big bang. Many would have lived a very brief existence before decaying. However if any of these particles were stable, they could survive to the current day, forming a sea of heavy particles everywhere around us. Such particles could very well be the explanation for the mysterious "dark matter", which has so far only made its presence known by the gravitational pull it exerts. If our theories about these new particles are correct, the LHC could be the first dark-matter factory on earth.

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Representation of the ATLAS experiment underground near Geneva

Photograph of tha ATLAS experimental cavern during construction (2005)