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HEP Group Makes Second Nobel Connection

With Tuesday’s (10/8/13) release of the names of the new Nobel Laureates in Physics, the University of Louisville High Energy Physics (HEP) group has realized its second Nobel connection.

The first connection to the prestigious prize came in 2008 when Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa shared the award “for the discovery of the origin of the broken symmetry which predicts the existence of at least three families of quarks in nature.”  The citation goes on to credit the BaBar experiment at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) and the Belle experiment in Japan with independent experimental confirmation of the broken symmetries which sealed the award for Kobayashi and Maskawa.

Professors David N. Brown and Christopher L. Davis of the Department of Physics and Astronomy have led the UofL HEP group in work on the BaBar experiment since the 1990s.  More than 60 undergraduate or high school students and 15 graduate students have been members of the group over the years, most contributing to the effort on the BaBar experiment.  The 2008 Nobel prize citation’s inclusion of BaBar gave the group its first Nobel connection.

As principal investigator for the group, Brown was invited in 2009 to join the ATLAS experiment, utilizing the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at Europe’s main nuclear physics laboratory, CERN, located in Geneva.  Brown was a visiting scientist on the experiment from 2009 through 2012 and involved several undergraduates and a Ph.D. student in his studies.

With the announcement on October 8 of the 2013 Physics prize award to Francois Engelert and Peter Higgs “for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider,” the group has made its second Nobel connection!

The Large Hadron Collider accelerates and collides intense, high energy beams of protons head on in several locations around a 16-mile round underground tunnel.  Detectors located at these spots record information about the subatomic particles spewed out of these collisions, at a rate that would fill a DVD library in a matter of seconds.  Sifting through the information from billions of collisions, researchers are able to find signals of very rare particles or processes, or those which require energies that were never before available in a controlled laboratory setting.  In this way, researchers were able to locate the ubiquitous but elusive Higgs Boson.

More information on the BaBar Experiment and the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physics can be found at:

More information on the ATLAS Experiment and the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics can be found at:

More information on the UofL HEP group can be found at:

A layperson description of the processes used in High Energy Physics and particularly for the search for the Higgs Boson is at:

UofL Contact for this story
David N. Brown