This is a talk from CERN physicist, Dr. Brian Cox that has personally changed my view on particle physics and its importance in our understanding of where we live. While he gives his audience a solid introduction to the Large Hadron Collider, he also manages to spread his inspiration by taking the viewers on a journey from far and away relativistic scales, all the way down to invisible quantum mechanical scales.

If you’re too scarce on time to watch the video, here is a quick summary:

In essence, he explains that our present day understanding of the universe hinders on small collection of subatomic particles.

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These are the substituents of matter. For example, the purple particles (6 in total) make up the quarks and are the building blocks of protons and neutrons – each of which contains 3 quarks. These quarks are held together by gluons, which are carriers of the strong nuclear force. As we go through the set, we can indeed construct a very good understanding that models how matter may very well exist at the smallest of scales.

However, there seemed to be a problem. The Standard Model of particle physics models physical events and effectively explains there outcome in some pretty hefty mathematics. This is it:

Physics Standard Model Equation

Although this looks scary, its not all that hard to see the problem with the current zoo of subatomic particles. If you compare the symbols in the model with the 16 particles above, you’ll quickly realize that a particle is missing, mystery particle H. H stands for the Higgs particle, first posited by Peter Higgs. Although it seems like a shot in the dark, it wasn’t all that random of a guess. You see, in order for the standard models math to endure, H must exist. In essence, the Higgs Particle is a solid prediction at best.

Furthermore and rather interesting is what you get when you apply supersymmetry (doubles the number of particles in the Standard Model) to the standard model and extrapolate the strength of the forces back towards the Big Bang.

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The red graph is the strength of the forces with the ‘regular’ Standard Model and the blue graph represents the ‘supersymmetric’ forces. At the bottom of the graph is simply the number of years in past (in billions). Quite remarkably, the forces seem to merge together back at a point of grand unification, about 14 billion years ago – our best current estimate for the age of the Universe! The Model wasn’t intended for this purpose, but alas it holds up and reveals this interesting property.

This talk is from April in 2008, which is when the LHC was just nearing completion. After a little bit of a rough start, it began its journey into the unknown and in 4 July 2012, it found the Higgs Particle to 99.99999% statistical accuracy. Despite the grand cost of 6 billion dollars, the Large Hadron Collider has just begun its journey, as it catapults modern quantum physics into a new age of discovery.

All in all, Dr. Cox’s talk is a definite watch for anyone with an ounce of curiosity. Its succinct, well put together and overall, truly inspiring.

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