The Science of CERN

The research taking place at CERN, surely one of the most high profile science projects ever conceived, was the subject of our first talk of 2016.

Dr Joseph McKenna, a detector specialist on the ALPHA experiment, spoke to us about his work making antihydrogen and investigating the properties of antimatter.  He started with crash course in antimatter research, covering topics including: What antimatter is, where it comes from, its history from prediction of its existence to its later discovery. 

He then took us in more detail through the equipment he uses to make and store anti-hydrogen.  The complexity of this and the ingenuity that has gone into its construction was impressive.  Finally he talked about why scientists care so much about studying antimatter and the properties that are being examined to see if differences from ‘ordinary’ matter, however small, can be detected. 

After a break the audience (which had packed out the B-Bar – around 50 people were there) got the chance to ask question about his work and its implications.  It was a wide ranging session, covering topics such the practical spin-offs from antimatter research, proposed new colliders and what they might reveal about the subatomic world, all the way through to space travel, black holes and consciousness.

All in all this was a great start to 2016 for us, and we're grateful to Dr Mckenna for his time, as well as to Ben (our previous chair and his half-brother) for persuading him to come and talk to us.

Dr McKenna starts his talk