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Scientists hope collider will unlock mysteries of universe


With news this week that CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has become the world's most powerful particle accelerator, scientists in ICTP's High Energy, Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics (HECAP) section are preparing to investigate dark matter, the Higgs boson and other physics beyond the Standard Model of Particle Physics, for which ICTP founder Abdus Salam, along with Harvard University scientists Sheldon Glashow and Steven Weinberg, received the Nobel prize in 1979.

"The LHC era has begun!" said Bobby Acharya, a particle-physics scientist with the HECAP section who is leading ICTP's group of researchers involved in the LHC's ATLAS experiment.

The ATLAS experiment will be using a detector to search the LHC's high-energy collisions for signs of dark matter, the Higgs boson and more. Dark matter makes up about 26% of the Universe but cannot be seen by ordinary telescopes; rather, it can be detected by its gravitational effects. The Higgs boson is a theoretical particle that may be linked to the mechanism by which particles acquire mass. Finding out what dark matter consists of, and whether the Higgs boson actually exists, would be major breakthroughs for particle physics.

"If the Higgs boson is found, it could give a deep insight into the nature of mass itself: that the mass of elementary particles, and therefore atoms themselves, is generated by how much they interact with the Higgs boson," explained Acharya.

Acharya's group is working closely with collaborators from the University of Udine (lead by Marina Cobal) and includes postdoctoral researchers Kerim Suruliz (ICTP) and Umberto DeSanctis (SISSA), as well as Professor Claudio Verzegnassi and student Michele Pinamonti, both from the University of Trieste.

"I am really looking forward to the physics collision data the LHC will generate early next year and am confident that the ICTP/Udine group will play a significant role in understanding what the data has in store for us," said Acharya.