Oxford Physics

A.J. Barr





Engagement, media, policy


Prof Alan J. Barr

What we do

Careful measurements of the new particles will allow us to work out their relationship with the "ordinary" stuff which makes up people, planets and stars. It may turn out that the new particles are related to normal matter by a special kind of symmetry called supersymmetry. This discovery would mean that built into the very structure of space-time there is a special relationship between matter-like and force-like particles.

Another possibility is that the new heavy particles might be created by matter waves bouncing around in extra dimensions of space. The idea that the universe could contain more than three spatial dimensions is popular not only in science fiction, but is also predicted by many leading theoretical physicists. Since we can't see or move in them, any extra dimensions must either be curled up smaller than we can see, or they don't allow normal light and matter to pass into them.

At the moment we just don't know if either of these ideas is correct - this is leading-edge science, and the answers are not in the back of the book. Our current mathematical description of matter and forces, the "Standard Model" of particle physics, has been very well tested at the energies accessible to existing colliders, in some cases to extraordinary precision. However it may well be that when we get to these extremely high energies none of our ideas are right, and nature works in a way we haven't been able to predict.
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Thermal image of the ATLAS semiconductor tracker barrel after assembly

Photograph of the ATLAS semiconductor tracker during its integration at CERN