Unlocking the mysteries of the universe
Australia's and the University of Adelaide's involvement in one of the world's most exciting scientific endeavours has been officially launched in Melbourne.
The new Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Particle Physics at the Tera-Scale is a national collaboration involving four Australian universities, including the University of Adelaide, and a number of overseas institutions. It was launched last month at the University of Melbourne by Innovation Minister Senator the Hon. Kim Carr.
The new Centre of Excellence is associated with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) - the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator.
The LHC has been built at CERN, the European centre for Particle Physics near Geneva, Switzerland. Using the LHC, scientists are attempting to reproduce and understand the origins of the Big Bang, which is believed to have resulted in the creation of the universe as we know it. High-energy particle beams - containing subatomic particles called protons - are collided in the detector.
"As scientists, we're hoping these collisions will create new particles that may completely change our understanding of particle physics and the known laws of the universe," said physicist Professor Anthony Thomas.
Professor Thomas is an Australian Laureate Fellow at the University of Adelaide. He is Director of the University's Research Centre for Complex Systems and the Structure of Matter (CSSM) and is also Associate Director of the new Centre of Excellence for Particle Physics at the Tera-scale (CoEPP).
For the first time in Australian research history, the centre is coordinating tera-scale high-energy physics research right across Australia.
"This joint effort will contribute to and directly benefit from the work being conducted at the LHC," Professor Thomas said.
The ARC has granted more than $25 million to the new centre, with a further $8 million in support coming from partner institutions.
As a partner, the University of Adelaide's School of Chemistry & Physics stands to receive up to $6 million of this funding and will join the international ATLAS collaboration, which built and is operating one of the two major experiments at the LHC.
"The LHC represents such a significant step forward in physics research, it's difficult to overstate its importance," said Professor Thomas.
"If we are able to make particles that haven't existed since the Big Bang, this could radically alter our understanding of how the universe works.
"It's a wonderfully challenging and exciting time, not just for scientists but also for humankind. As scientists, we know a lot about the universe, but we also know enough to realise just how much we still need to learn; there's so much more that we don't know.
"Though our involvement with the new Centre of Excellence, and our work in the Research Centre for Complex Systems and the Structure of Matter, the University of Adelaide is playing a key role in this big leap forward in science," he said.
Senator Carr said the Federal Government's support for the centre was helping Australian scientists to link with the world's best research equipment.
He said the LHC "has the unprecedented energy needed to probe big questions like the origins of mass, the secrets of the big bang and dark matter and the search for new dimensions in space".
"Having access to this equipment is vital for the centre's researchers," Senator Carr said.
For more information on studying Physics at the University of Adelaide go to: ua.edu.au/programs/2011
Story by David Ellis