Large Hadron Collider replica and physicist Peter Higgs to visit Belfast

1 May 2013

Large Hadron Collider tunnel. Image courtesy of CERN

Over the coming days, visitors to Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) will be able to walk through a replica of a section of the Large Hadron Collider tunnel, the world’s most powerful particle accelerator based at CERN, as well as hear from Prof Peter Higgs, the physicist who first predicted the existence of the Higgs boson particle in 1964.

The Large Hadron Collider has been getting lots of attention since last July, when physicists working at the 27km tunnel at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, announced they had discovered hints of a new subatomic particle consistent with the Higgs boson, thus paving the way for new insights into how our universe was formed and the dark matter that’s out there.

Since February, the collider has been in shutdown for two years of upgrades before atoms are once again smashed in the tunnel that re-creates conditions after the Big Bang.

During the May bank holiday weekend and next week, visitors to QUB will have the opportunity to walk through a full-size replica of a section of the Large Hadron Collider. The exhibition will be in the Whitla Hall on the main Queen’s Campus and will be open 10am to 4pm each day, including the bank holiday weekend.

There will also be some interactive exhibits to give people insights into what it’s like to be a particle physicist working on the world’s most powerful atom smasher.

Higgs will be giving a lecture next Monday evening at QUB to explain the inspiration leading to his prediction of the existence of the Higgs boson particle. Other physicists will be speaking about how the Higgs boson fits in with modern theories of particle physics and what it is like to work at the Large Hadron Collider.

Large Hadron Collider

The Large Hadron Collider

QUB graduate Dr Steve Myers, who is director for Accelerators and Technology at CERN, will be giving a public lecture at the university on Thursday, 9 May. Myers is leading the team that is undertaking the major maintenance and upgrade work of the particle collider to enable it to run at twice the energy when it turns back on in 2015.

Myers said he is looking forward to returning to QUB.

“For many people it will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the real-life application of physics and science in such a setting,” he said.

Prof Alan Fitzsimmons from the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen’s, said this will be the first time a major exhibition on the work on the Large Hadron Collider has come to Northern Ireland. 

“It is a unique opportunity for members of the public to get an insight into what takes place in the Large Hadron Collider and to meet those physicists and scientists who are having a huge impact around the world,” he said.

The exhibition has been developed by the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic