Tag Archives: standard model of particle physics

ARPICO November 13, 2018 event in Vancouver (Canada): The Mysterious Dark-Side of the Universe: From Quarks to the Big Bang with Dark Matter

The Society of Italian Researchers and Professionals in Western Canada (ARPICO) is hosting a physics event for those of us who don’t have Phd’s in physics. From an October 24, 2018 ARPICO announcement (received via email),

The second event of ARPICO’s fall 2018 activity will take place on Tuesday, November 13th, 2018 at the Roundhouse Community Centre (Room B). Our speaker will be Dr. Pietro Giampa, a physicist who recently joined the ranks of the TRIUMF laboratories [Canada’s particle accelerator centre and, formerly, Canada’s National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics] here in Vancouver. Dr. Giampa will give us an intriguing and, importantly, layperson-intelligible overview on the state of our knowledge of the universe especially in regards to so-called dark matter, a chapter of physics that the most complete theoretical model to-date cannot explain. We will learn, among other things, about an ambitious experiment (set up in a Canadian mine!) [emphasis mine] to detect neutrinos, fundamental and very elusive particles of our  cosmos. You can read a summary of Pietro Giampa’s lecture as well as his short professional biography below.

We look forward to seeing everyone there.

The evening agenda is as follows:

  • 6:30 pm – Doors Open for Registration
  • 7:00 pm – Start of the evening event with introductions & lecture by Dr. Pietro Giampa
  • ~8:15 pm – Q & A Period
  • to follow – Mingling & Refreshments until about 9:30 pm

If you have not already done so, please register for the event by visiting the EventBrite link or RSVPing to info@arpico.ca.

Further details are also available at arpico.ca and Eventbrite.

More details from the email announcement,

The Mysterious Dark-Side of the Universe: From Quarks to the Big Bang with Dark Matter

Understanding the true nature of our universe is one of the most fundamental quests of our society. The path of knowledge acquisition in that quest has led us to the hypothesis of “dark matter”, that is, a large proportion of the mass of the universe which appears invisible. In this lecture, with minimal technical language we will journey through the structure and evolution of the universe, from subatomic particles to the big bang, which gave rise to our universe, in an ultimate research to describe the dark side of the universe called dark matter. We will review what we have learnt thus far about dark matter, and get an in-depth look at how scientists are searching for something that can not be seen.

Dr. Pietro Giampa originally completed his undergraduate in physics at Royal Holloway University of London in the UK, where he wrote a thesis on SuperSymmetry Searches with the ATLAS Detector (so LHC related). Following his undergraduate, he completed a Master Degree in particle physics at the same institute where he developed a novel technique for directional detection of neutrons. It was after his master that he moved to Canada to complete his Ph.D at Queen’s University in Particle Astrophysics, working on the DEAP-3600 Experiment with Nobel laureate Prof. Arthur McDonald. In the summer of 2017 he moved to TRIUMF, where he is currently the Otto Hausser Fellow. At TRIUMF he continues his research for new forms of physics, by studying Dark Matter and Ultra-Cold Neutrons.


WHEN: Tuesday, November 13th, 2018 at 7:00pm (doors open at 6:30pm)

WHERE: Roundhouse Community Centre, Room B – 181 Roundhouse Mews, Vancouver, BC, V6Z 2W3

RSVP: Please RSVP at EventBrite (https://mysteryofdarkmatter.eventbrite.ca/) or email info@arpico.ca

Tickets are Needed

  • Tickets are FREE, but all individuals are requested to obtain “free-admission” tickets on EventBrite site due to limited seating at the venue. Organizers need accurate registration numbers to manage wait lists and prepare name tags.
  • All ARPICO events are 100% staffed by volunteer organizers and helpers, however, room rental, stationery, and guest refreshments are costs incurred and underwritten by members of ARPICO. Therefore to be fair, all audience participants are asked to donate to the best of their ability at the door or via EventBrite to “help” defray costs of the event.


  • Where can I contact the organizer with any questions? info@arpico.ca
  • Do I have to bring my printed ticket to the event? No, you do not. Your name will be on our Registration List at the Check-in Desk.
  • Is my registration/ticket transferrable? If you are unable to attend, another person may use your ticket. Please send us an email at info@arpico.ca of this substitution to correct our audience Registration List and to prepare guest name tags.
  • Can I update my registration information? Yes. If you have any questions, contact us at info@arpico.ca
  • I am having trouble using EventBrite and cannot reserve my ticket(s). Can someone at ARPICO help me with my ticket reservation? Of course, simply send your ticket request to us at info@arpico.ca so we help you.

What are my transport/parking options?

  • Bus/Train: The Canada Line Yaletown Skytrain station is a 1 minute walk from the Roundhouse Community Centre.
  • Parking: Pay Parking is underground at the community centre.  Access is available via Drake Street.

With regard to the Canadian mine and neutrino experiments, I hunted down a little more information (from an October 6, 2015 article by Kate Allen for thestar.com), Note: A link has been removed,

Canadian physicist Arthur B. McDonald has won the Nobel Prize for discoveries about the behaviour of a mysterious solar particle, teased from an experiment buried two kilometres below Sudbury [Ontario].

The Queen’s University professor emeritus was honoured for co-discovering that elusive particles known as neutrinos can change their identity — or “oscillate” — as they travel from the sun. It proved that neutrinos must have mass, a finding that upset the Standard Model of particle physics and opened new avenues for research into the fundamental properties of the universe.

McDonald, 72, shares the prize with Takaaki Kajita, whose Japanese collaboration made the same discovery with slightly different methods.

To measure solar neutrinos, McDonald and a 130-person international team built a massive detector in an operational copper mine southwest of Sudbury. …

To solve this problem, McDonald and his colleagues dreamt up SNO. Deep in an INCO mine (now owned by Vale), protected from cosmic radiation constantly bombarding the earth’s surface, the scientists installed a 12-metre-wide acrylic vessel filled with 1,000 tonnes of ultra-pure heavy water. The vessel was surrounded by a geodesic sphere equipped with 9,456 light sensors. The whole thing was sunk in a 34-metre-high cavity filled with regular water.

When neutrinos hit the heavy water, an event that occurred about 10 times a day, they emitted a flash of light, which researchers could analyze to measure the particles’ properties.

Allen’s article has more details for anyone who might want to read up on neutrinos. Regardless, I’m sure Dr.Giampa is fully prepared to guide the uninitiated into the mysteries of the universe as they pertain to dark matter, neutrinos, and ultra-cold neutrons.

Janis McKenna speaking at Vancouver’s Café Scientifique Feb. 28, 2012 meeting

Professor of physics at the University of British Columbia, Janis McKenna, is presenting tomorrow (Feb. 28, 2012) at a Café Scientifique meeting at Vancouver’s (Canada) Railway Club.

“Something’s the Matter with Anti-Matter: There’s not enough of it”

About 13.7 billion years ago, our Universe was born in a Big Bang. That early universe was a big steaming stew of radiation and exactly equal numbers of particles and antiparticles. But somehow, a symmetry was broken, and a lopsided-ness arose, leaving a very small excess of matter over antimatter. And by the time the universe was less than a second old, essentially all the antimatter had annihilated with matter in bursts of light/energy, leaving a small residual excess of matter – which is all the matter we see in our universe; this is the matter we’re all made of.

The 2008 Nobel Prize in Physics was given to three particle physicists whose theory can explain how this lopsided universe evolved as having unequal parts matter and anti-matter, as predicted in the simplest Big Bang models.

The Standard Model of Particle Physics has been a triumph of particle physics – many thousands of experiments have confirmed predictions of this simple and elegant model. But it has at least 2 severe shortcomings: while it has been shown to accommodate matter-antimatter asymmetry, it can only do so at a level orders of magnitude too small to explain the matter-antimatter asymmetry of our universe. The other shortcoming is that it predicts a Higgs Boson, which has not yet been observed.

We’ll discuss the experimental program which has observed and studied the decays of hundreds of millions of B mesons (“beautiful mesons”), testing the Standard Model of Particle Physics to great precision. An overview of the experiment and results will be presented.

The presentation is scheduled for 7:30 pm. The few times I’ve attended, the room has been more than full. You can check out Vancouver’s Café Scientifique website here.

An engineer explains why the Higgs boson matters to us all and a theologian muses on the ‘god’ particle

Titled “What is the God Particle and Why Should I Care?,” this essay is by Dr. Michael T. Gamble,

So much sound and fury over the Higgs Boson, signifying what? A complete understanding of the fundamental constituents of the world in which we live? Of the universe of which we are an integral part? No … and yes.

High-energy physicists at CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research, announced this week they are closer than ever to detecting the apparently hallowed boson — or possibly it is called God Particle merely for mass consumption. Its quantification would at once provide breathtaking insights into the infinitesimal domain affecting Earthly life and to the composition of the entire universe, a broad range, indeed.

Rewards of Basic Science

This is basic science at its best, the unraveling of the underpinnings of the thing, matter, in this case. The payoff is understanding the whys and wherefores of how particles come to be endowed with mass. And when mass teams up with gravity, watch out, literally. An apple falls to Earth because gravity, a force centrally directed toward the Earth’s core, acts on mass, and on mass alone. We all owe a great debt to mass. In hydroelectric power plants, gravity acts on the mass of water spilling over the dam and pulls it downward, turning the turbines.

Humans don’t float away into space, as in Frank in Kubric’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”, because the Earth’s gravity acts on our body mass. Yes, mass is directly proportional to weight, the product of mass multiplied times the Earth’s gravitational acceleration. Cheer up, on Mars you would weigh about 60 percent less!

Standard Model Confirmation and Extensions

The best description of the nature of matter and how it interacts with itself that scientists have devised is codified in the so-called standard model (SM) of particle physics. The Higgs Boson is encompassed by the SM and would fit perfectly, once detected, as it is the sole remaining undetected/unquantified particle prophesized by SM devotee.

Of greater import than completing the equivalent of a prestigious stamp collection for high-energy physicists, quantifying the Higgs Field, the modality via which mass is apportioned, would enable more of the principal forces observed in nature to be unified, mutually describable in a set of complete equations.

Electricity and magnetism have long been codified in the Maxwell equations. Quantification of the Higgs Field would enable a separate phenomenon, nuclear beta decay, also called the nuclear weak force, to be unified with the forces of electricity and magnetism and elaborated in electro-weak equations.

While the Higgs Boson remains unquantified, narrowing the range of its mass to between 114.4 GeV and 131 GeV, according to CERN scientists, is meaningful news. Some years ago the Higgs was thought to be as massive as 500+ GeV, an energy regime unreachable by the LHC [Large Hadron Collider], whose peak energy is closer to 450 GeV.

It appears that it is only a matter of time to determining the mass of the God Particle. And although Einstein’s grand unification vision, a single set of equations describing all of the fundamental forces including gravity, will still be unrealized, I, for one, will celebrate by eating ice cream. When talking mass, every kilogram counts.

About Dr. Michael T. Gamble: Dr. Gamble is a former staff member of the physics division of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he researched directed-energy devices such as terawatt laser systems. He was also a senior manager within the Gammas, Electrons, and Muons detector collaboration at the Superconducting Super Collider. Gamble is the author of “Zeroscape,” a high-tech thriller. He holds degrees in nuclear and mechanical engineering, and was a postdoctoral Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Thank you Dr. Gamble for having this essay sent to me today. I very much appreciate the clarity and the way in which you made the Higgs boson relevant to those of us who are not physicists. It makes a good companion piece to the material I was able to include in my Dec. 14, 2011 posting about the CERN announcement.

I stumbled across a Dec. 15, 2011 article in The Telegraph titled “Higgs boson: the particle of faith” by Alister McGrath, which provides a brief history of how the Higgs boson came to be called the ‘god’ particle and some thoughts on science and belief (excerpted from the article),

In 1994, Nobel Laureate Leon Lederman came up with a nickname for the Higgs boson – the mysterious particle proposed by physicist Peter Higgs back in the 1960s to explain the origin of mass. Journalists loved the name – “the God particle” – which probably explains the huge media interest recently in the work of the Large Hadron Collider. Most scientists hated it, considering it misleading and simplistic. Maybe so. But it certainly got people talking about physics.

Some tell us that science is about what can be proved. The wise tell us it is really about offering the best explanations of what we see, realising that these explanations often cannot be proved, and may sometimes lie beyond proof. Science often proposes the existence of invisible (and often undetectable) entities – such as dark matter – to explain what can be seen. The reason why the Higgs boson is taken so seriously in science is not because its existence has been proved, but because it makes so much sense of observations that its existence seems assured. In other words, its power to explain is seen as an indicator of its truth.

Alister McGrath is Professor of Theology at King’s College London, and President of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. He is currently writing a new biography of the Oxford apologist and writer C. S. Lewis, to be published in March 2013.

I think that taken together both of these pieces offer interesting and contrasting perspectives on the Higgs boson, one notable for its clarity and certainty and the other notable for its suggestion that much of what we know about it  is based on a type of faith, albeit not a religious faith.