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The large hadron collider and the mysteries of particle physics


5 July 2011

Professor Allan Clark: "The collider is an extraordinary feat of science and engineering."
Professor Allan Clark: "The collider is an extraordinary feat of science and engineering."

Professor Allan Clark works on the Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest and most expensive physics experiment.

In a Sydney Ideas talk on 7 July Professor Clark, Director of the Department of Nuclear and Particle Physics at the University of Geneva, will discuss the Standard Model, currently the best physical theory of matter and forces. Then he will delve into the unknown to share some of the mysteries that remain in particle physics, where our science breaks down.

Clark will discuss how colliding particles together at close to the speed of light inside the Large Hadron Collider may help us find answers to some of those continuing questions about the behaviour of particles.

Professor Clark explains, "The collider is an extraordinary feat of science and engineering which sits in a 27 kilometre-long circular tunnel beneath the Franco-Swiss border and aims to uncover some of the remaining secrets of our universe, giving us a glimpse at the earliest moments after the Big Bang, and illuminating the very nature of the fundamental forces and particles that make up our world.

"It is performing beyond our best expectations, with the possibility of two to three times more data than expected this year. This will possibly allow the confirmation, over an extended mass range, of the Higgs boson - if it exists - using data collected until the end of 2012."

Professor Allan Clark had his first course in particle physics in the 1960s, as an undergraduate at the University of Tasmania. At that time, particle physicists first suggested that nucleons were not indivisible, but were made up of quarks and our knowledge has continued to expand since then. This was the start of a new period in the understanding of fundamental particles and their interactions which sparked his interest and shaped his subsequent research activities.

One of the ATLAS detectors Professor Clark works on.
One of the ATLAS detectors Professor Clark works on.

Following the completion of his doctoral studies at the University of Oxford, Clark's research activities have concentrated on the collision of hadrons (mostly protons or anti-protons) at the highest possible energies, using particle accelerators. He has been a member of several experimental teams that have made major contributions to our understanding of particle interactions.

In 1989 Clark was appointed Professor of Physics at the University of Geneva and since 1998 he has served as Director of the Department of Nuclear and Particle Physics. He has served on many advisory panels, including the European Committee for Future Accelerators and the Swiss Institute of Particle Physics, where he was the founding Chair.

Co-presented with the Professor Harry Messel International Science School (ISS) and the Science Foundation of Physics, Faculty of Science, University of Sydney.


Event details

What: Playing with Particles, a Sydney Ideas event

When: 6pm, Thursday 7 July

Where: Eastern Avenue Auditorium, Eastern Avenue, Camperdown Campus

Cost: Free, no booking required


Media enquiries: Verity Leatherdale, 9351 4312, 0419 278 715, verity.leatherdale@sydney.edu.au