Come venture deep inside the world’s biggest physics machine, the Large Hadron Collider. This extraordinary feat of human engineering took 16 years and $10 billion to build, and just weeks ago began colliding particles at energies unseen since a fraction of a second after the big bang. We’ll explore this amazing apparatus that could soon reveal clues about nature’s fundamental laws and even the origin of the universe itself. John Hockenberry moderates a discussion among physicists including Marcela Carena, Monica Dunford, Jennifer Klay and Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek.
This program is part of The Big Idea Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.
Three-time Peabody Award winner, four-time Emmy Award winner, and Dateline NBC correspondent John Hockenberry has broad experience as a journalist and commentator for more than two decades. Hockenberry is the anchor of the public radio show The Takeaway on WNYC and PRI. He has reported from all over the world, in virtually every medium, having anchored programs for network, cable, and radio. Hockenberry is a noted presenter and moderator at conferences such as TED, Aspen Ideas, and the World Science Festival.
Marcela Carena is an internationally renowned expert on revolutionary ideas in particle physics, ideas about to be tested at the Large Hadron Collider. She has worked closely with experimental physicists at the Fermilab and CERN laboratories developing strategies for discovery at the world’s highest-energy particle colliders. A star of The Atom Smashers, a 2008 documentary feature film about the search for “The God Particle,” Dr. Carena has developed and extended theories to explain the origins of matter and mass, as well as the identity of the mysterious dark matter that fills the universe. She has proposed connections between the Higgs boson, supersymmetry, extra dimensions of space and the unification of all forces and matter in the Big Bang.
Dr. Carena, who advises the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation, is a senior scientist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., and a professor of physics at the University of Chicago and the Enrico Fermi Institute.
Monica Dunford is an experimental high-energy particle physicist who helped bring the ATLAS detector at CERN into operation for the first Large Hadron Collider beam and collisions. Her areas of expertise range from searching for ‘new physics’ particles like dark matter to calibrating the ATLAS hadronic calorimeter to crawling in small, dusty places while connecting some of the 3000 kilometers of cable in ATLAS. Dr. Dunford is currently a research fellow at CERN, living full-time in Geneva, Switzerland.
Jennifer Klay is an expert in high-energy nuclear collisions, who helped discover the phenomenon of jet quenching in nuclear collisions with the STAR experiment at Brookhaven National Lab’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider. She also helped to develop the upgrade detector for the ALICE experiment at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, which will allow it to measure jet quenching in nuclear collisions there.
Dr. Klay is an assistant professor of physics at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. She was a staff scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory before joining the faculty at Cal Poly in 2007.
Professor Frank Wilczek is considered one of the world’s eminent theoretical physicists. In 2004, he received the Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction—key to several major problems in particle physics and beyond.
Professor Wilczek contributes regularly to Physics Today and to Nature, explaining topics at the frontiers of physics to wider scientific audiences. Two of his pieces have been anthologized in Best American Science Writing (2003, 2005). With his wife Betsy Devine, he wrote Longing for the Harmonies (W.W. Norton). His most recent book, The Lightness of Being: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of Forces (Perseus) was published in September 2008, and he’s now hard at work on The Attraction of Darkness, a novel mixing science, music, sex, and murder.
Professor Wilczek is a second-generation American and a graduate of the New York City’s public schools. Presently he is the Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics at MIT.