Public lecture to trace the hunt for ‘antimatter’

Published 12 May 2009

quarkMembers of an Armidale audience will be introduced, next week, to the idea that they and the rest of the universe exist thanks to minute asymmetries in nature.

This and related ideas will be entertainingly explained in a free public talk at the University of New England next Wednesday, the 20th of May. Titled “Hunting for Antimatter”, the talk will be in UNE’s Biological Sciences Lecture Theatre at 6.30 pm.

The presenter, Dr Kevin Varvell from the University of Sydney, will address the questions: “Why is there something instead of nothing?” and “Why are there so many different elementary particles?” His talk will focus on the discovery of the origin and mechanism of “spontaneous broken symmetry” in nature – discoveries that were rewarded with the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physics.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the prize to Professor Yoichiro Nambu “for the discovery of the mechanism of spontaneous broken symmetry in subatomic physics” and to Professor Makoto Kobayashi and Professor Toshihide Maskawa “for the discovery of the origin of the broken symmetry which predicts the existence of at least three families of quarks in nature”.

Dr Varvell is a member of a team from the University of Sydney’s High Energy Physics Group that has been working at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland. Enabling protons to smash together at nearly the speed of light, the Large Hadron Collider is the world’s biggest and most expensive scientific experiment. It has been designed to provide significant insights into the origins of the universe – including the mysterious “dark matter” that occupies much of space.

The Large Hadron Collider may help physicists to understand the origin of the asymmetry that appears to prevent matter and antimatter from annihilating each other by ensuring the existence of one extra particle of matter for every 10 billion particles of antimatter.

Dr Varvell appeared on the Today show on television when the Large Hadron Collider was launched last September.

The free public lecture is part of the University of Sydney’s “Kickstart” program, which is visiting UNE for the fourth successive year. The “Kickstart” program, aimed primarily at Higher School Certificate Physics students, is visiting Wagga Wagga, Dubbo and Armidale this month, and will be at UNE on Tuesday the 19th and Wednesday the 20th of May. Each day there will be workshops addressing aspects of the HSC Physics syllabus and lunchtime lectures on relativity. There will also be workshops for teachers.

For more information phone Dr Colin Bale on (02) 6773 5072.