The quest to understand mass has spurred more than 50 years of particle physics exploration. Three landmark discoveries over the past two decades have revolutionized our understanding of the universe’s fundamental particles, both validating and uncovering the limitations of the leading theory of particle masses.
The top quark was measured to be inexplicably heavy, with a mass 300,000 times greater than the electron. Neutrinos were found to be surprisingly light – 100 billion times lighter than the top quark – and to morph from one type to another. The long-sought Higgs boson was discovered at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in 2012, validating the leading theory of mass that predicts a space-filling Higgs field. This theory, however, does not explain the non-zero masses of neutrinos.
Over the next decade, scientists will continue to study the properties of the Higgs boson and the top quark at the LHC. At Fermilab, near Chicago, neutrino properties will be studied by directing intense particle beams to enormous detectors located hundreds of miles away. This ambitious international program, involving many thousands of scientists, may finally solve the mystery of particle masses.
Dr. Nigel Lockyer, who was recently named as the Director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab). Dr. Nigel is famous in the physics community for his work on the particle known as the bottom quark for which he was awarded the American Physical Society’s W.K.H. Panofsky Prize in 2006.
A full biography for Dr. Nigel Lockyer can be found here.
Previous lectures in this series:
- 2012 Dr. Frank von Hippel: A Global Cleanout of Nuclear Weapon Materials
- 2011 Physics Nobel Laureate William D. Phillips: Time, Einstein, and the Coolest Stuff in the Universe
- 2010 Terry Tao: The Cosmic Distance Ladder
- 2009 Alan Guth: Inflationary Cosmology: Is Our Universe Part of a Multiverse?
- 2008 Margaret Geller: Newton Meets Einstein: Mapping Dark Matter in the Universe
- 2007 Kip Thorne: The Warped Side of the Universe from the Big Bang to Black Holes and Gravitational Waves
- 2006 Physics Nobel laureate Saul Perlmutter: Supernovae, Dark Energy, and the Accelerating Universe -- What Next?
- 2005 Physics Nobel laureate Wolfgang Ketterle: When Freezing Cold is Not Cold Enough -- New Forms of Matter at Close to Absolute Zero Temperature
- 2004 Physics Nobel laureate Robert B. Laughlin: The Emergent Age
- 2003 Physics Nobel laureate Carl E. Wieman: Bose-Einstein Condensation: Quantum Weirdness at the Lowest Temperature in the Universe
- 2002 Sir Michael Atiyah: Geometry and Physics: A Marriage Made in Heaven
- 2001 Mildred S. Dresselhaus: Frontiers in Nanoscience