Particle Physics

International Particle Physics Masterclass n UCD for 5th & 6th year Leaving Cert Students

I received the following from UCD and thought that the best way of getting the information out was to post it here.It certainly looks like something you should follow up on if you are thinking of taking Physics in college or, as they mention here, have a keen interest in computing:

Dear 5th & 6th Year Teachers and Students (Science/Physics),

UCD School of Physics is delighted to accept applications for our 2nd International Particle Physics Masterclass (IPPM), aimed at 5th & 6th year Leaving Certificate Secondary Students.

This is your chance to get your hands on real LHC data and analyse it to find W & Z bosons, and look for evidence of the Higgs!

UCD School of Physics as part of a worldwide initiative is inviting students from around Ireland to participate in a one day Masterclass to delve deeper into the mysteries of particle physics.

Last year’s IPPM event was a great success with students from 35 schools nationwide coming to UCD Physics for a day of hands-on-learning about particle physics. This year again we invite you to apply for a place on the UCD School of Physics International Particle Physics Masterclass 2013.

UCD School of Physics, will provide students with state-of-the-art computing facilities, specialised software, expert guidance and real data direct from the CMS experiment at CERN in order to allow you to look for W & Z bosons produced in the collision of two protons at the LHC.

This activity is open to 5th and 6th year Leaving Certificate students, with a keen interest in Physics. No advanced experience (beyond studying
physics or maths for Leaving Certificate or a keen interest in computing) is required, though an interest in particle physics and the
recent results from CERN is an advantage. This is an excellent opportunity for students who are considering entering a Physics focused
third level education path.

The UCD School of Physics International Masterclass 2013 will be held on the 20th of March. The activities will start at 9:30am and finish at
4:00pm. The day will consist of practical lectures, hands-on data analysis, and an international video conference to compare your results live with students in other countries. (If you can’t make it on the 20th March, similar activities will be running at Maynooth NUI on March 6th and Trinity College Dublin on February 26th.)

Click on the following link for the UCD IPPM Application form in .doc (MS Word) format.

If you or members of your physics class at school would like to participate at the UCD School of Physics Particle Physics Masterclass, please ask your teacher to send an email to the appropriate address (email address is available in the MS Word document) with the subject line ‘PARTICLE PHYSICS MASTERCLASS’ (or fax 01-2837275).
The closing date for receipt of applications is Wednesday, the 6th March, 2013.
Successful applicants will be contacted in early March.
This event is free of charge.

Further information at: [2] and [3]


Neutrinos they are very small

I posted about neutrinos recently, but didn’t do them justice (John Updike’s poem excepted).

So I’m taking a second stab at it. I usually include (what I consider to be) interesting tit-bits at the end of the relevant chapter in the Student Notes, but at five pages this would be too much.

so I’m going with a podcast. It’s about twenty minutes long, and the script will be available to any who wish to read it in the Particle Physics page of my website.

I don’t know if one dedicates podcasts to people, but since this is my podcast I make the rules. I got a lovely email recently from Niamh, who is a leaving cert student and is planning to study Physics in university next year. Apart from saying nice things about the website, she went on to write about her enthusiasm for Particle Physics:

 . . . Its just so interesting! we started pair annhilation in class the other day n i was whisperin “isnt this just so cool?” at the back of the class after every paragraph.

See that’s what we as teachers should be saying, except instead of whispering it, or speaking in our usual monotone voice, we should be shouting it from the rafters:


By the way, the picture (familiar to all neutrino afficienados) is of a bunch of physicists checking out one of the 11,200 photomultiplier tubes that line the Super Kamiokande neutrino detector in Japan, which also features in the podcast.

Hope you like it!


Vodpod videos no longer available.Also available for download from itunes.

more about “Vodpod Firefox Extension for WordPress“, posted with vodpod

Particle Physics and the LHC: some useful resources

The Large Hardon Collider is due to be turned on this day next week (Wednesday, 10th of September), so it’s not a bad time to put together some useful resources to show to the troops to give them some idea of what it’s all about.

At just under 5 minutes, the Large Hadron Rap isn’t a bad place to start:

The ‘rappers’ mention dark energy and dark matter; comprising 96% of the universe between them, they can’t be directly measured, but their influence is immense. Find out more by watching Patricia Burchat speak at TED:

Want more? Try ‘Most of the Universe is Missing

Mary Mulvihill over at Science@Culture reminds us that BBCRadio 4 is devoting the entire day to the event. Watch Dara O’Briain, among others, give his rather unique take on the event. Not a big fan of homeopathy or Deepak Chopra is our Dara. He does appear to be a fan of Physics though; ‘wonder how he got on with Science in school? He strikes me as someone I’d have to keep on when it came to handing out chemicals!


This link is to the CERN website.

Over on Teacher’s TV you can watch Brian Cox present ‘In Search of Giants’; three 15 minute programs:

The Building Blocks of Matter

The Hunt for the Higgs

The Forces of Nature

Finally for teachers, there are various free resources, including posters, available here.

Murray Gell-Mann – why I took Physics

Murray Gell-Mann, the Nobel prize-winning scientist who ‘discovered’ quarks and took the word from Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, thought that Physics at high school was “the dullest course I had ever taken”, and he only applied to study physics at university “to please my father”.
Taken from; When we were kids: how a child becomes a scientist.

I wonder how his physics teacher felt when he read that?

Here Gell-Mann talks about Truth and Beauty in Physics


My tip for the Leaving Cert Physics paper

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC)  in CERN will be the world’s largest particle accelerator when its construction is completed sometime this Summer. It’s a pretty big deal if you are a particle physicist, and even if not you are still likely to be bombarded with the news when it is finally switched on.

‘Tips’ aren’t really a good idea for the Leaving Cert Physics paper, but if I had to guess I would suggest that something in this area is going to make an appearance on the Particle Physics question this year.

To find out why this is such a big deal you could do worse than watch Brian Cox talking at TED this year.
The Higgs particle isn’t on the syllabus but it should be. It’s probably the Holy Grail of Particle Physics. It aims to explain why particles have mass, which isn’t as silly as it sounds (apparently).

‘Course I could be completely wrong.