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Resources - How Does a Quark Wark? (Nuclear and Particle Physicist)
How Does a
Quark Wark?
Nuclear and Particle Physicist
Lesson Idea by: John Mutter, The Gateway Community Learning Center
School District #83 (North Okanagan-Shuswap)

If there's one career area in which communications is a fine art form, it's in particle physics.

These scientists work on projects worth over $100 million and collabourate with as many as 2,000 other people on the same project. The project members come from countries and universities around the world.

"It's really more like running a large industry with one of these experiments," says Douglas Beder, of the department of physics and astronomy at the University of British Columbia (UBC). "Collabouration between these people is intense."

The communication needs of these physicists was so intense that they invented the World Wide Web.

"The people who invented the World Wide Web on the Internet were the physicists at Geneva, Switzerland," explains Beder. "They needed to be able to talk to each other from around the world and transmit large volumes of data to each other. The most demanding needs for communications came out of the elementary particle experiments at these international centers."

Within each group of these enormous projects, you'll find people whose main task is to make sure the communication keeps functioning. If you have access to the Internet, visit CERN's website to get an idea of the way this enormous labouratory functions.

CERN -- European labouratory for Particle Physics

Besides using Internet services, like e-mail and websites, physicists use video conferencing, says physicist Janis McKenna.

"In particle physics, we communicate a lot over video conferencing. It goes over the telephone lines, with one phone line for the audio and one for the video. Instead of flying over to Paris to present something to your colleagues, they can ask you questions and you can answer back," says McKenna. "It's just like being there."

McKenna works with UBC in Vancouver, Canada, and Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. At Stanford, she works with the SLAC program -- the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. (Not surprisingly, it's the home of the first World Wide website in the U.S.)


You are a particle physicist, and you've just been assigned to work on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) division at CERN. Devise strategies for researching this division by: accessing CERN's website; obtaining information from your library or a university physics program; contacting CERN itself.

Gather and organize the information and put it together in a report form. Include the following information in your report:

  • What is the LHC?
  • Where will the LHC be built?
  • Briefly describe the history of CERN and where this projects fits in.
  • Without going into detail, list the technological and theoretical challenges of the project.
  • What are the LHC's hardware parameters?
  • Who are the technical coordinators for the LHC project?

CERN's address and phone number:

CERN - European labouratory for Particle Physics
1211 Geneva 23
Phone: +41 22 76 72141

In order to collabourate with colleagues from around the world, today's scientists must be well versed in using the Internet as a communications and research tool.

It's essential to understand data communications technology and know which tools are most effective for which tasks. In addition, knowing how to find information using different tools makes researchers more effective.

While the World Wide Web is the most widely recognized Internet resource, there are many other Internet applications. Using a good Internet or computer dictionary, explain the uses and effectiveness of the following tools. Indicate which are primarily communications tools and which are primarily research tools.

FTP, Archie/Anarchie, Gopher
FINGER, WHOIS, X.500 Directory Service, Knowbot Information Service
Netscape/Internet Explorer
Eudora (E-mail)
Browsers (list 3 of the most commonly used)

Which of the above do you have access to at school? At home? At a community access center?


Make a list, including URLs, of all the Internet sites that deal with particle physics. These sites should include FTP sites, Gopher sites, TelNet sites, as well as WWW sites. For each site located, indicate what tool was used and what key words you used in your search.

Which tool was most effective? Which site provided the most comprehensive information? Which type of site uses the greatest variety of media (media like text, graphics, audio or video)? Which type of sites provided links to other related sites?


You are a member of a multi-institute research team. Your primary responsibility is to develop a process that will allow all team members to communicate effectively, and to share information and research results expressed in a variety of media.

Using your knowledge of Internet research and communications tools, recommend which tools should be used by the team. Explain for what purposes and for what reasons the particular tools were chosen.

Curriculum Organizer(s):
Reading, viewing and listening; writing, representing and speaking; communication and collabouration
Curriculum Sub-organizer(s):
Research I, Research II, Drafting, Revising and Editing, Process and Systems II
Basic computer and Internet skills
- Texts including The Communications Handbook, 2nd Ed.; How the Internet Works; Que's 1996 Computer and Internet Dictionary, 6th Edition.
- Internet access


Solution to Practice

The information for this report was obtained through the LHC Section of CERN's website in October 1997.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is an accelerator that will bring protons into head-on collisions at higher energies than ever achieved before. This will allow scientists to investigate further the structure of matter.

The LHC will be built on the Franco-Swiss border west of Geneva, Switzerland, at the foot of the Jura Mountains.

CERN was created in 1950s to enhance the cooperation between scientists in different countries and, thus, forward front-line research in Europe. CERN exists primarily to provide European physicists with accelerators that meet research demands at the limits of human knowledge.

The next research instrument in Europe's particle physics armory is the LHC. It is designed to share the 27-kilometer LEP tunnel and be fed by existing particle sources and pre-accelerators. The LHC will use the most advanced superconducting magnet and accelerator technologies ever employed. LHC experiments are being designed to look for theoretically predicted phenomena. However, they must also be prepared for surprises, which will require great ingenuity on the part of the physicists and engineers.

Three particular technological and theoretical challenges exist for this project:

  1. Superconducting magnets issues
  2. Large-scale cryogenics issues
  3. Accelerator physics issues

The LHC's hardware parameters are:

Injectors and transfer lines
Beam instrumentation
Magnets for the ring
Powering and quench protection
RF and feedback

The technical coordinators for the LHC project are Paul Faugeras and Paul Proudlock.

Published in Partnership by the Center for Applied Academics, Bridges Transitions Inc., a Xap Corporation company and The B.C. Ministry of Education, Skills and Training. Copyright © 2002 Center for Applied Academics

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