• Question: What has been the most interesting science experiment for you and which experiment has taught you the most?

    Asked by anon-201695 to Sophia, Meirin, Andy on 15 Mar 2019.
    • Photo: Meirin Oan Evans

      Meirin Oan Evans answered on 15 Mar 2019:

      I’m part of the ATLAS experiment at the CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC). http://atlas.cern
      ATLAS is longer than 3 school buses 🚌, taller than 5 giraffes 🦒 and weighs the same as the Eiffel Tower 🗼!
      ATLAS is located 100m underground and 3000 scientists work on the experiment!
      It’s called ATLAS since we’re mapping 🗺 the secrets to the universe.
      As you might expect, there are lots of secrets to our universe, so ATLAS has been the most interesting experiment and has taught me the most!

    • Photo: Andy Buckley

      Andy Buckley answered on 15 Mar 2019:

      Oh, great question! I think I would mainly have to point at some historical experiments rather than ones that I’ve personally worked on. For example:

      – Michelson and Morley’s discovery that the speed of light is measured to be the same, regardless of the motion of the observer. This was not *entirely* unexpected, but told us something really deep about the geometry of space-time in reality, and paved the way to Einstein’s relativity.

      – Measurements of the bending of light by the sun during the 1919 solar eclipse, and of jitters in the motion of Mercury… this time confirming Einstein’s even more advanced picture of spacetime and gravity.

      – The discoveries of the Standard Model particles through the 20th century: first the stable ones like electron, proton, neutron, and neutrino… and then the totally surprising discovery of another “generation” of particles, and then another! We now think there are only three, but have no idea why. In the second half of the century, experiments like Gargamelle, UA1,2, and Argus discovered the three sets of force particles, and finally in 2012 the CMS and ATLAS experiments — on which I worked! — discovered the Higgs boson: the last (?) piece of the jigsaw.

      – The discovery of the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation spectrum by Penzias and Wilson in the 1960s, and since the 1990s a set of satellite measurements that have given us a beautifully detailed picture of the heat map of the early universe. Looking in detail at this has told us about the existence and nature of dark matter, and the expansion of the universe, complementing telescope studies of galaxies.

      So these things have been super-interesting for me: over the course of about 120 years we’ve discovered a picture of the universe that is *completely* different from what anyone expected. It’s amazing to be (a small) part of that.

      On a more mundane level, though, I learned a lot about physics and data analysis “tricks” my degree laboratory work with simple stuff like pendulums and gyroscopes!