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Modelling the invisible

Hands-on at the exhibit

  • Understand the results of a real scattering experiment by running numerical simulations on a Raspberry Pi
  • Operate a replica of a dark matter experiment to try to observe a hidden simulated signal
  • Attempt to identify the contents of ‘mystery boxes’

Find out more

To extract any meaningful information from particle physics experiments, such as the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, scientists need to use very advanced computer simulations to interpret the results. The current energy of the Large Hadron Collider can produce around 100,000 elementary particles, called pions, per collision. And as there are up to 600 million collisions per second, it’s extremely hard to find a new particle like the Higgs boson, because you also see many other particles in your detector that are produced in parallel.

The Higgs boson was discovered at CERN in 2012, and forms the last ingredient of the microcosm, which is summarised by the Standard Model of Particle Physics. But this model leaves some important questions open - for example, it does not contain dark matter, which does not interact with light and is much more abundant than ordinary matter.

In our research, we are identifying the fundamental building blocks of nature and the laws describing their interactions. We are using computer simulations to remove the uninteresting background events from natural radioactivity and cosmic rays, leaving us with the interesting, rare events that we want to find. We are also using computer simulations to design future experiments, such as detectors to identify dark matter.

Since early research in ancient times, we have made huge progress in understanding stars and galaxies, and the fundamental particles from which matter is built. Our research will help us to understand the world better, and could lead to more amazing human inventions.

Find out more at the Modelling The Invisible webpage

Presented by: Durham University.