A group of Upper Sixth Form students visited the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory for a fast track tour of accelerators and other elements of particle physics. Two fascinating talks gave a guide to accelerators, including Rutherford’s own ISIS accelerator, and helped to build understanding of the Standard Model, a table of the fundamental particles that constitute all matter and forces in the universe.
Students enjoyed a tour of the ISIS experimental hall, a warehouse full of equipment rented out to companies or offered for free to select scientists in order to complete experiments that could not happen anywhere else. One example given was Rolls-Royce, who would analyse their engines using the ISIS accelerator’s neutron beam in order to examine the inside of the engine. Neutrons can pass through many things but not through hydrogen, meaning they would give a sort of reverse x-ray of the oil inside the engine. Neutron beams can, for example, create a picture of a rose hidden inside a lead container (http://tinyurl.com/rose-in-lead).
After lunch a third talk was given on the Large Hadron Collider, which a group of Sixth Form Physicists will be visiting during the Easter holidays. The lecture introduced some big, unanswered questions about the nature of the universe, including: what it contains; whether there is more than one universe; and how it all began. The trip ended with a computer workshop where students analysed readings from the laboratory’s particle accelerator in order to tell visually which particles were present.
George Gloyens (U6th)Back to all news