What next for particle physics?

13 May 2019 02:11 PM

UK scientists join international colleagues to debate the future of the field.

Understanding how the Universe works isn’t easy. Deciding which question to focus on next can be just as hard, and for the next week physicists from across the United Kingdom will join international colleagues to debate what, when and how to do so.

Particle physicists have already developed the Standard Model of physics, which seeks to identify the forces and interactions which in turn explain the underlying structure and operation of the Universe.

The historic 2012 discovery of the Higgs Boson, and the 2016 confirmation of the existence of gravitational waves, helped strengthen our knowledge of the “known knowns” of the Standard Model. But much remains unknown - including the most fundamental question of them all: “how can we even exist?”

The birth of the Universe should have created equal amounts of matter and antimatter, which then should have cancelled each other out. Why – or even if - there was a small imbalance in matter, which now forms the galaxies, stars and us, is so far unexplained. So too is the nature of Dark Matter, now known to comprise around 25% of the entire Universe but which – apart from its existence – is completely unknown.

Answering these questions is at the heart of particle physics, and the UK is a world leader in the field. UK  researchers and engineers were key partners in the discovery of the Higgs, and continue to make substantial contributions to our improved understanding of how the Universe works. 

“The UK’s contribution to global particle physics is recognised as innovative and strong, and important across the science – from theory to experiments, engineering and technology to computing, and crucially also in explaining and inspiring young people and the public about the science,” said Professor Mark Thomson, executive chair of the UK’s funding agency for particle physics, and a professor of experimental particle physics.

“We are also leaders in translating the knowledge, skills and technologies developed for particle physics into real economic, societal and international benefits for the UK. All of these aspects are essential to maintain a healthy and vibrant research community in coming years.”

This week’s meeting in Granada, Spain, will debate the shape and content of the next version of the European Strategy for Particle Physics, which is expected to be finalised early next year. The Strategy is a key input to decisions affecting the long-term future of the field: which science projects should be supported, and what technologies, and human and financial resources, are needed to do so.

Scientists from universities and research labs from across the UK will attend the meeting. Particle physics in the UK is supported by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, part of the national funding agency UK Research and Innovation. 

More information, including details of an online briefing for media on Thursday 16 May can be found at the CERN website: https://europeanstrategy.cern

Media contact: Terry O’Connor +44 77 68 00 61 84