Mistakes and Misadventures in Experimental Particle Physics

Experimental particle physics has seen some quite spectacular blunders. In 2008 the Large Hadron Collider was turned on, with the world’s media watching closely. Nine days later a manufacturing fault caused a superconducting wire in a magnet assembly to become non-superconducting. As 13,000 amps of current suddenly encountered resistance, the temperature shot up, an electric arc damaged the liquid helium enclosure, and as two tonnes of liquid helium became non-liquid the resulting explosion destroyed 53 magnets and delayed the project for another year while this was repaired. Oops.

The Muon Magnetic Moment: What is the “g−2” factor and why is it interesting?

The Fermilab particle physics laboratory, an hour’s drive west of Chicago, is the home of an experiment with the wonderfully nerdy three-character name of g−2 (“gee minus two”). It is built with a single purpose: to measure the g−2 factor, which, as the name implies, is the result of the simple arithmetic of subtracting two from g, which, when multiplied by a scaling factor, gives 116 591 802…

Dark Matter and the Defence of France

In the 1960s an underground capsule was established as a command point for a nuclear missile system across Provence. In the 1990s it found a new home as a place to search for dark matter, and has since become a centre for a much wider spectrum of research.

Explaining Nucleosynthesis with Lego

One of the most successful props I have used at outreach events is the “Build Your Own Universe” Lego kits produced by QMUL. These are incredibly simple—the kit just consists of a bag of red and yellow Lego bricks. But this is all you need to explain primordial and stellar nucleosynthesis—that is, how the atoms…