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The Matter of Life, the Universe and Everything!

00.00 Images:
GV CERN & Matter Sculpture
Atlas Big wheels
H/a Atlas site Gvs
Team along tunnel
Interview Professor Watkins

Guide Commentary:  CERN, the European research institute near Geneva, is the world’s largest particle physics laboratory, and, it has nearly completed the world’s largest particle accelerator, the “Large Hadron Collider” or LHC built in a 27 kilometre tunnel a fifty metres below ground.  The aim is to examine not just matter, but anti matter, dark matter and the forces that created the Universe itself.
The length of the tunnel will enable the acceleration of two streams of particles in opposite directions which will then collide at close to the speed of light, the result should be a microcosm of conditions just after the Big Bang created the universe 13 billion years ago.
Alice and Atlas are two of four enormous detectors being built at different points around the tunnel, designed to record these collisions and explore the fundamental nature of matter and the basic forces that shape our universe.
A team from the University of Birmingham’s Particle Physics group are among scientists from over 500 academic institutions and companies involved in the LHC project and particularly in the workings of the Atlas and Alice detectors.

01.04 SOT Peter Watkins Professor of Particle Physics, University of Birmingham 
“The large Hadron Collider project as a whole has four experiments in it, two are specialist experiments and two are very general experiments that study everything that we hope we’ll see at high energy. One of them is Atlas and one of them is called CMS. So the LHC project is pushing knowledge of matter to the smallest scale yet studied on earth.”

01.24 Images:
Gvs Atlas Detector
Details Atlas
graphics particles & explosion in Detector
Atlas electronics
Interview Stephen Hillier

Guide Commentary: And to do so it requires an enormous amount of technology, the Atlas detector alone is a major feat of engineering, large enough to contain the nave of Westminster Abbey, it has layer upon layer of complex electronic detectors built up like an onion, all wrapped around the tiny central core where the collisions will take place.   The particles will travel round the LHC ring in around three thousand bunches in each direction then as a pair of bunches approach the Atlas detector a series of massive electromagnets will focus the beams down to a third of the width of a human hair 10 centimetres long prior to collision.   One problem is that with more than one thousand million collisions per second the fastest computers and electronics can only record around 200 events, so one focus of the Birmingham team was to create key parts of what they call trigger processors to help decide which 200 events to record.

02.17 SOT Dr. Stephen Hillier, Senior Research Fellow, University of Birmingham.
“What happens is the signals come in on these black cables and the rest of the racks here have lots of modules which act like a little brain really and they have to make a very quick decision as to whether an event is interesting. They take in about 300 gigabytes per second of data and we can’t record all of that data so we have to say ‘is it interesting or not?’.

02.38 Images:
details atlas wiring
working on Atlas
Interview Professor Watkins

Guide Commentary:  They have designed the Trigger processors to be field programmable so they can fine tune the selection process to identify the most interesting collisions.   A key aim of the Atlas detector is to search for new massive particles including the “Higgs Boson”, which theoretically adds mass to other particles, but so far has not been detected.

02.59 SOT Professor Peter Watkins
“Current theories are very successful at explaining the particles we see but one thing that’s missing is we have no understanding of the masses of these particles, why is the electron so light compared to the proton, why is the top quark so heavy compared to the proton. The Higgs Boson is a particle that could explain this. “

03.17 ImagesBorder
Gvs Alice Detector
Details Alice
Interview Dr David Evans

Guide Commentary:  The LHC tunnel passes underneath the French border, and CERN’s Alice detector is nearing completion  on French soil, fifty metres below the surface.   Like Atlas, Alice is comprised of layered detectors, which will be sealed within a massive electromagnet when its giant doors are closed to contain the radiation and magnetic fields resulting from the collisions.   Here too the University of Birmingham team are responsible for Alice’s central trigger processor, or its electronic brain, which has to make complex detection decisions in less than a tenth of a millionth of a second.   It is designed to study collisions between nuclei of lead atoms in particular, to re-create conditions immediately after the Big Bang, and study a state of matter that existed then.

04.03 SOT DR David Evans, Senior Lecturer in Particle Physics,  University of Birmingham & UK Spokesperson for “Alice”
“in the very early universe about a millionth of a second after the big bang it was so hot and dense that normal matter as we know it melts and you have this soup of quarks and gluons and by colliding these ions together we actually create mini big bangs where matter will melt and will form this quark-gluon plasma in the centre of Alice."

04.24 Images:
Gv& Detail core of Alice Detector
Gvs tunnel
Computer banks & Grid Graphic
Interview Professor Watkins

Guide Commentary:   By studying the quark-gluon plasma, members of the ALICE team hope to learn more about the strong force, one of the four known fundamental forces of nature. It’s the force that holds the nuclei of atoms together, binds quarks together in protons and generates 98% of the mass of atoms.   The Large Hadron Collider is expected to start Science operations in Spring 2008  and run for ten years or more, but a major challenge will be the sheer volume of data it will provide, estimated at 15 petabytes or 15 million gigabytes per year.   Scientists, however, have come up with a solution analogous to the worldwide web, which was created at CERN, and are now building a computer grid for the LHC data, operating at up to 10 gigabits per second which will link up processor capacity worldwide.   But what do the Physicists themselves expect to find?

05.14 SOT Professor Peter Watkins
The main thing I think we will learn we’ll understand better what are the smallest parts of the proton, what is inside the proton what is the smallest object that we’re all made of? However I think we’ll also discover new massive particles that nobody has had the chance to investigate before in experiments on earth.

05.30 Images:
along LHC Tunnel
Pan over Atlas

Guide Commentary:   The LHC may not unlock all the secrets of the Universe, but it could take our understanding of the way the world was made to new heights.

05.40 Ends 


Additional Material and B Roll :-
05.47 Atlas and Tunnel

Additional Sound bite
06.06 Professor Peter Watkins
“The key things we’re trying to understand is what is the proton made of, what are the smallest pieces inside the proton. But in doing that, by colliding protons at very high energy you have the ability to make massive particles, new particles that have never been studied before on earth and the Higgs Boson is one example of the thing that we look for.

06.26 Gvs Alice and Tunnel near Alice

Additional Sound bite Re Alice:

06.40 Dr David Evans:
“What we’re really doing is studying the strong force. The strong force is one of the four fundamental forces of nature and we want to know more about it. it’s actually responsible for 90% of my mass, your mass, the mass of the earth and specifically what we want to do is in the very early universe about a minute after the big bang it was so hot and dense that normal matter as we know it melts and you have this soup of quarks and neutrons and by colliding these ions together we actually create mini big bangs where matter will melt and will form this plasma in the centre of Alice”.

Re CERN computing Grid

07.18 Images Computer Banks

07.32 SOT Francois Grey, IT Comms Officer, CERN
“Well the data from the LHC project is far too much to analyse here at CERN alone so we need over 100 data centres around the world to help us, there is a world-wide LHC computing grid that we’ve set up and these centres have banks of computers themselves some of them - the large ones - will store copies of the data which we will store also here at CERN and in this way we’ll be able to store and analyse the data really in a global fashion.”

Additional material ends 08.00







Page contact: Kelly Newton Last revised: Mon 11 Jun 2007
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