Sample script 1

One way of doing the full show

This is one take on the full show script, and it lasts somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour depending on how fast you talk and how rowdy the audience is! You’ll probably want to modify this to give it your own spin, and learning such a long thing word for word would be pretty challenging anyway, but hopefully this provides a few useful ideas to kick off.

The script

Presenter 1: Hello and welcome to Accelerate!. My name is <Presenter 1>, and <intro>.

Presenter 2: And my name’s <Presenter 2>, and <intro>. Before we start, we’ve just got a few boring safety things to go through. We’ve got quite a lot of equipment up here on the stage and some of it is expensive and some of it is dangerous, so please don’t come and play with it unless we invite you down as a volunteer. The lecture theatre has exits... And some of the demonstrations down here involve high voltages, particularly this Van de Graaff generator over here, so please don’t volunteer if you have a pacemaker or another internal electrical device, or think you might be pregnant. Also, if everyone could switch off their mobile phones...we can begin!

Presenter 1: So, our show is called Accelerate! because it’s all about particle accelerators. So, before we start…does anyone know what a particle accelerator is? The clue is in the name! That’s right, it’s a machine which accelerates particles, or makes them go faster—and by which we really mean, it gives them more energy.

Presenter 2: Today, we’re going to go through a recipe which explains all the different ingredients you’ll need to make a particle accelerator, whether it’s a tiny one on a tabletop or the biggest machine in the world. First, you need some particles, and we’ll talk a bit about what kind of particles we use in accelerators and where we get them from. Then, we need to accelerate them which, as <Presenter 1> said, means we need to find a way to grab onto them and give them some energy, so we’ll think about how you might do that. Then, having got these particles zooming around really, really fast, we need to find a way to control the beam, and guide it to where we want it to be…and that place is in a particle collision, where we smash particles together and see what happens. And there is no point doing all this amazing science if you can’t see what happens, so we’ll find out how you detect particles.

Presenter 1: Right, so that’s what a particle accelerator is...does anyone know where the biggest particle accelerator in the world is? (give hints if needed) It’s the LHC at CERN, on the French–Swiss border. This huge machine is a giant circle some 27 km around, about 100 m underground and, inside, it’s colder than outer space. The particles we use there are accelerated to 99.999999% the speed of light. This is a view of CERN from the air, and we can highlight the ring because it’s not that easy to see otherwise! And this is what the accelerator tunnel looks like underground: you can just about see that it’s curved, but only just because the circle is just so big! At a few different points around the ring, particles are smashed together and we use detectors to see what’s going on. Here’s a picture of one of the enormous detectors, CMS. CMS is what’s called a ‘general-purpose’ detector, looking for any kind of new physics which we might be able to spot with the LHC. The different detectors at different points around the ring, are each looking for a different kind of physics.

Presenter 2: So that’s the biggest accelerator in the world…and obviously they’re not all that big…but how many do you think there are in the world in total? About 20,000. So, if we’ve got so many particle accelerators, where do you think the nearest one is right now? (unless you’re very near a research facility, it’ll probably be in the local hospital)

Here’s a map of many accelerators in the UK. You can see that there are a lot of green dots, and those correspond to accelerators in hospitals. In fact, most accelerators are found in hospitals, and only the few we’ve marked on there in red are used for actual physics. (if you like you can zoom in on a physics facility near you at this point, or just zoom in on RAL since that will be mentioned later)

They’re actually used for all kinds of different things. In hospitals, most of them are used to generate x-rays to kill cells in tumours and help save the lives of people with cancer. Industrial particle accelerators are also things like making computer chips. And a very few are actually used for science—a few miles south of Oxford, near Didcot, there are a couple which are used for physics research: ISIS and the big silver doughnut of Diamond. These aren’t even mainly used for particle physics, but are mainly used by scientists trying to understand how materials work.

Presenter 1: (this spiel, and how often you ask the audience in it, should be tailored to the level of the audience. For example, whether like charges attract or repel will be crucial for understanding the Van de Graaff demo shortly, so it’s worth spelling this out a bit more for younger groups) So, that’s been a quick tour of particle accelerators, big and small, let’s get onto our recipe. The first thing we need is particles. What kind of particles are we talking about? We’re normally talking about sub-atomic particles, things like electrons and protons. The LHC actually uses protons—where do we find those? That’s right, in the nucleus of atoms. So we’re going to need an atom containing only one proton: anyone know which one that is? The first element on the periodic table? Hydrogen. This is a model of hydrogen, which is the simplest kind of atom, and it’s made up of a proton and an electron. The proton is positive, and the electron is negative, and what do opposite charges do? They attract, so these two particles are pulled towards each-other and the electron can orbit around the proton, rather like the EArth orbits the Sun because they’re bound by gravity. If we want just the proton to use in a particle accelerator, we can rip them apart by applying a voltage. If this half of the audience is positive, and this half is negative...which way will the proton go? So we can collect the protons together from that side of the audience to use in our particle accelerator.

Actually, I’ve got a balloon full of hydrogen right here…

Presenter 2: Er, Andrew, don’t you have to be quite careful with that?

Presenter 1: Why?

Presenter 2: Well, isn’t hydrogen what they use in space rockets? The put liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen together, and set it on fire, and the explosion it makes is big enough to lift a rocket off the ground and into space. And there’s hydrogen in that balloon, and plenty of oxygen in the air all around us...cover your ears everyone!

Presenter 1: So obviously in the LHC we don’t just blow hydrogen up, we use it to get protons by ripping it apart with an electric field. In fact the entire accelerator is supplied with protons by this tiny bottle of hydrogen at the preinjector.

OK, so back to our recipe: we’ve thought about what kind of particles we use and where we might get them from, now we need to accelerate them, or give them energy. Since these particles are charged, one way you might do this is similar to the way we separated the proton and the electron in hydrogen: using a large voltage.

Presenter 2: We’ve actually got a demonstration to show the effect of a large voltage here, and for this we’re going to need a volunteer. What’s your name? OK, <Volunteer 1>, are you wearing any metal jewelery or hairclips? Excellent, I’ve always wanted a watch… I’ll just put that here for safe keeping. What I’d like you to do is stand up on this stool here, place this hand flat on the top of the dome, and raise your other hand up like this…and wave goodbye to the audience!

Not really! This is perfectly safe. If you could place that hand out flat for me, and I’ll just put some pieces of tinfoil on there, and we can keep our eye on those and see what happens.

In a moment I’m going to switch this on…now there’s nothing to be scared of, the only thing to remember is that, if you do take your hand off the dome, please don’t try to put it back, and when I tell you, take your hand off and just jump down with both feet. Feeling happy? OK, I’ll switch it on.

(lower lights, illuminate volunteer’s hair from behind)

So the first thing we notice is that the tinfoil is starting to jump out of <Volunteer 1>’s hand…could you just wiggle your fingers a bit for me? That’s great. And now, you might notice something happening to their hair. The Van de Graaff generator is charging x up, and that means that every individual hair, like the pieces of foil, has the same charge. Like charges repel, which pushes the hair and foil apart, but unlike the foil the hair can’t really go anywhere so it just stands on its ends!

Have you ever been in a shampoo advert? Can you give your head a big, volumising shake for me? Perfect!

So who thinks we should leave him/her up there all day? OK, so take your hand off the dome, and jump down with both feet for me. Thanks! And can we all give <Volunteer 1> a big round of applause! (return stuff)

Presenter 1: How many volts do you think there were on <Volunteer 1>’s body? Well, we can actually find out by looking at some sparks.

(lights off completely)

Can everyone see that when I bring this globe near the big one, you get a spark? How long do you think it is? About 5 cm? Well, the ‘breakdown voltage’ of air is about 30,000 V/cm, so that means it takes 150,000 V to make a 5 cm spark. So there were 150,000 V on <Volunteer 1>’s body! How many volts do you get out of the plug at home? 240 V. So 150,000 is a lot, but because no current was flowing, it’s not dangerous. Does anyone dare me to spark myself? ARRRRGH! Actually, it’s not that painful, just a bit tingly, and again, that’s because there’s a very large voltage but not a lot of current.

Presenter 2: So, you remember that we were talking about using these high voltages to accelerate particles: well, the biggest problem with them is exactly what <Presenter 1> just showed us, the sparks. In fact, the LHC doesn’t just accelerate particles with 150,000 V, but 7 TV, or seven million million volts. If we did all the acceleration in the LHC with one giant Van de Graaff generator, the sparks would easily be long enough to jump from Switzerland and zap us here in <Location>! (the sparks would go about 2300 km, so if you’re not in the UK do check whether this is true for where you are!)

Presenter 1: But 150,000 V sounds like quite a lot, right? Why do we want to make particle accelerators which are even more powerful than that? Well, it turns out, the higher the energy of the particles you use, the smaller the things we can see with them. Before I explain exactly what that means, I’d just like to recap how we see stuff normally. We can see the things around us with our eyes because light from various sources, like the lights on the ceiling in here or sunlight bounces off them, and then our eyes then detect that light, allowing us to see those things. So it’s all about bouncing one thing off another.

If you’re building a microscope, the first thing you might try is visible light and, just using ordinary light, we can do rather better than we can just with the unaided eye. This is a picture taken using an optical microscope. In fact, it’s an image of blood, and those little round things are the individual blood cells. The limit on the magnification you can get with a light microscope is about 1,000×. If you want to see things smaller than that, you’re going to need a particle accelerator.

The first kind of particle accelerator you’ll use isn’t very powerful: it’s called a scanning electron microscope, and it accelerates electrons through a few thousand volts, bounces them off whatever you want to look at, and enables us to get much more detailed images of objects. This is another image of red blood cells, but this time we’ve zoomed in a lot further. And it’s not just that the images are bigger: the important point is that there’s a lot more detail there as well. In fact, with an electron microscope, we can magnify things by around 500,000×!

If you want to go smaller than that, you’re going to need a proper particle accelerator. This is an image of a molecule of haemoglobin, which is the protein which carries oxygen around in your blood, and the best way to get a detailed image of such a complicated molecule is to look at it using an x-ray light source, like Diamond, which is this machine here. This enormous silver doughnut accelerates electrons around and around in a circle and, as the electrons screech around a corner, they spray out a kind of light called synchrotron radiation. This radiation is a very high intensity beam of x-rays, which we can use to look at the atoms inside materials.

So these huge particle accelerators act like giant microscopes, enabling to look at reality on smaller and smaller scales, and the bigger the energy, the smaller the scale we can examine.

Presenter 2: The electrons in Diamond are accelerated to three billion volts, so how can we give them that much energy? Well, the first clue is that Diamond is a circle, which means we don’t have to give them all that energy at once: we can give them a little kick them every time they go around. However, the other thing we do is to accelerate particles not with static electricity, but with a wave. To see what that means, I’m going to get you guys to accelerate some particles. So, if we could get in our scale-model protons please!

You remember that you all practised a Mexican wave before we started the show? Well, now we’re going to try to use a Mexican wave to accelerate these beach balls from one side the the theatre to the other. So, when I say go, don’t just throw them, try to accelerate them from this end to that. OK...3, 2, 1 go!

That was a bit hopeless, we didn’t get them to anywhere near the speed of light! Shall we try going back the other way? 3, 2, 1, go!

OK, that was a bit better…

Presenter 1: Obviously down at CERN they don’t have thousands of scientists Mexican waving the protons around the LHC, we accelerate the particles using an electromagnetic wave. To show you what that means, we’ve got another demonstration, and for this we’re going to need a volunteer: but quite a special volunteer, someone who thinks they can light up this fluorescent light bulb, like you might have in your kitchen at home, using only their bare hands.

What’s your name? OK, <Volunteer 2>, go. Any ideas? Do you want a hand? What we’ve got here is a plasma ball, so if I just turn it on… Now bring the tube near to the plasma ball, but don’t let it touch…wow! The bulb lights up, even though it’s not connected to anything. If you put your hand in between, you can stop it working. Another thing you can do it place your other hand in different positions on the tube and it only partially lights up. OK, thanks!

So what’s happening here? Well, the way the plasma ball generates these cool patterns is that there’s a voltage at the centre of the globe: but it’s not a static voltage, like on the VdG, it’s going up and down, up and down, thousands of times per second. That wobbling voltage causes an electromagnetic wave to spread out from the centre of the globe, a bit like the ripples in a pond after you throw in a stone. Those waves then accelerate the electrons in the fluorescent tube and this flow of electrons is what causes the tube to light up.

Presenter 2: So obviously we don’t have hundreds of plasma balls at CERN either, we have things which look a bit more like this. This is what’s called an ‘RF’, or radio-frequency cavity which we use to accelerate particles. The particles zoom down a tube in the middle of this cavity, riding along on an electromagnetic wave, just like a surfer on a water wave, or the beach balls on our human wave. As they pass through this cavity, they gain a tiny amount of energy, and so if we put enough of these in a long line, you can eventually get the electrons going really, really fast, and eventually get up to 99.999999% the speed of light.

Presenter 1: So, we’ve got our particles, we’ve given them enough energy to travel really, really fast…what we need to do now is control this beam of really fast-moving particles. For that, we’re going to need to use magnetic fields. What we’ve got here is a tube a bit like an old-fashioned television, which accelerates electrons. I’m going to show you what happens if we apply a magnetic field by putting an electric current these coils around the outside.

So first we need to turn down the lights, and hopefully you can all see what’s going on on that big screen. The globe here is filled with a gas which glows when electrons hit it, which means we can see the path of the beam and, at the moment, it’s pretty boring: it’s just coming out of this bright thing over here, which is called the cathode, and smashing into the glass on the inside of the ball. So, if we turn up the electric current in the coils around the outside, and therefore turn on the magnet, something starts to happen. Can you see the beam of particles bending? And we can actually get it to bend right around in a circle if we turn up the magnet enough. The other control we have over here is for the electrons’ energy, or speed, inside the globe: if we turn that up, you can see that the circle gets bigger again but, by turning the current in the magnet up some more, we can bring it back to the same size again.

Presenter 2: So, as Andrew just showed us, we need to use a larger magnetic field to bend particles which are travelling more quickly. So, for the really, really fast particles in the LHC, we’re going to need an enormous magnetic field. Since we make this field with electromagnets, that means a really big electrical current. However, there’s a problem with putting huge electrical currents through wires: the wires get very hot. We actually make use of this effect in kettles and electric heaters: as you pass electricity through them the resistance in the wires causes them to heat up. However, too much current can cause a problem. I’ve got here a battery and some wire wool—so just wool made from steel. If I put the wire wool across the terminals of the battery…there we are! It catches fire! So if we put too much current through an electromagnet, it might catch fire. And a magnet which catches fire rather than bending our particles isn’t going to be much use in the LHC!

Presenter 1: We’re going to need to use a kind of material which doesn’t heat up when we pass electricity through it—a material which has no electrical resistance. However, there’s a catch—these superconductors only work at very, very low temperatures. So, we’re going to need something very, very cold. Something which is nearly 200 degrees below zero. Does anyone have any idea what that might be? Yes, liquid nitrogen! And for this we’re going to need a couple of volunteers.

OK, whilst <Presenter 2> gets our volunteers kitted up with some safety gear, I’m going to show you the first experiment we’re going to do with liquid nitrogen. I’ve got here a piece of rubber tube and, as you can see, at room temperature it’s bendy and rubbery and pretty boring. So, I’m going to stick it into the nitrogen. The first thing you notice is that liquid starts spurting out of the other end of the tube. That’s because the nitrogen in the bucket is boiling so hard that it’s forcing liquid down the tube. Remember, this rubber tube is two hundred degrees hotter than the nitrogen, so it’s like sticking something really, really hot in a bucket of water. We can tell that the tube is nice and cold when the boiling stops, which must mean it’s at the same temperature as the nitrogen. Now, if we pull it out and tap it on something, you can hear that its properties have changed somewhat. In fact, if I use this hammer, I can just smash it! That’s because the rubber changes a lot when we cool it down to nitrogen temperatures, and it shows you why, if you’re making a machine which uses liquid nitrogen, you shouldn’t use rubber seals, because they may become brittle and smash, and get nitrogen everywhere!

Presenter 2: So, we’ve got here x and y with gloves and goggles, and the first thing we’re going to do is give Andrew some flowers. Who’d like to do that? Andrew has slightly unusual taste...he likes his flowers very, very cold. So, stick them into the nitrogen. When the bubbling stops, the nitrogen has stopped boiling and the flowers are at the same temperature as it is. Now, pull them out, and smash them on the table!

So, we saw what happened to the rubber tube, that’s what happens if you put living things into nitrogen. All the water in the cells freezes solid and they smash, like glass. So that’s a pretty obvious safety consideration too—if you accidentally get your hands, or your face, in something that cold, that would happen to you too!

Next, can you take this cup of nitrogen and throw it all into this mystery liquid? So it was just soapy water! When the nitrogen hit the liquid and warmed up, it turned from a liquid into a gas and filled all these bubbles. In fact, there are some creepy frozen bubbles. So can we have a round of applause for our volunteers, please!

We got all those bubbles because nitrogen expands by about 700× when it turns from a liquid into a gas. Another way to show this is if I put a tiny bit of nitrogen in the bottom of this bottle, and then stick a balloon over the top. As it heats up, the nitrogen turns from a liquid into a gas, and expands, and this tiny amount of nitrogen is enough to fill up an entire balloon!

Presenter 1: So, who can remember why we were talking about nitrogen in the first place? That’s right, superconductors. I’ve got a piece of superconductor right here. This small, black puck is made from a ceramic material, so it’s something like a teacup or a bathroom tile. But it has some very unusual properties. Currently, it’s obviously at room temperature, and here I’ve got some very powerful magnets. So, time for the most exciting demo of the show. (puts on sunglasses) Nothing. Sorry, I lied, that’s actually the worst demo in the show.

The thing about superconductors is that they only work when you cool them down below a certain temperature, which for this one is about -180°C. So, if we put it in the nitrogen, we can see what difference that makes to the properties. Now superconductors are materials which, below a certain temperature, have no electrical resistance at all. That means that you can set an electrical current going around in a superconducting circuit, take away the battery, and the current will keep on going around and around forever and ever, never slowing down or stopping. In fact, people have watched currents going around in superconductors for literally years without seeing the current drop. And this means they do something quite cool with magnets too…

Presenter 2: The superconductor is quite cold now, so let’s carefully get it out of the cup and bring it near these magnets again…as you can see, something slightly different happens. It just floats there, suspended in mid-air, and there are no strings, we can pass the tweezers above and below. But as soon as it warms up above the critical temperature, it just falls back onto the magnets. Shall we try that again?

The LHC doesn’t actually use this amazing levitation in its design, but the fact that superconductors have no electrical resistance means that we can make really, really strong electromagnets to control the beam. So that concludes that part of our recipe! We’ve got particles from hydrogen, accelerated them using electromagnetic waves, and then used enormous superconducting magnets to control where they go. So, where do we want them to go? To the next stage of our recipe, smashing them together in particle collisions!

Presenter 1: To show you how particle collisions work, we’re going to have to get out our scale model protons again. There are two different types of particle collision, particle–particle and fixed target. First, we’re going to try particle–particle, where two beams smash into one-another, so if we could have half of the beach-balls on each side of the room please…

We’re going to try to collide them along a line down the centre of the room, so when you throw them, don’t just lob them at your mates, try to hit this invisible line, and we’ll see how many hits we get! OK, 3, 2, 1! That was hopeless, let’s try again…

Presenter 2: You can see that it’s pretty hard to hit two moving beams of particles together, but it’s much harder than that in the LHC. We managed to collide a few beach-balls from opposite sides of a lecture theatre…in the LHC, you’re trying to collide two beams of protons about the thickness of a pencil as they zoom around a tunnel 27 km in circumference!

The next kind of collision is called ‘fixed target’, where a beam of particles is collided with something stationary. But what can we use as a target? I’ve got an idea. <Presenter 1>, why don’t you go and stand there? Cover your eyes…

Presenter 1: Wow, you hit me loads of times! So, as you can see, fixed target collisions are much easier, but because only the target isn’t moving you don’t have as much energy to play with. Why do we want all this energy? Well, it turns out that with the huge energies inside the LHC, this is where our giant microscopes idea breaks down. This is an animation of two protons smashing together inside the LHC, and as you can see, the two protons come in and loads of completely different particles come out! This is pretty weird. We’re putting together boring old protons and making particles that simply weren’t there before. It’s like throwing together two apples really really hard and getting three bananas and a mango.

This is all possible because of probably the most famous equation in physics. Anyone know what that is? Yes, that’s right, E=mc2, and here’s the equation along with its inventor, Albert Einstein. Does anyone know what the letters mean? E, energy, m, mass and c, the speed of light. So what does this equation mean? Well, it means that you can turn energy into mass, but the exchange rate is c2, the speed of light times itself. The speed of light is 299,792,458 m/s, which is a big number, so the speed of light squared is an enormous number, which means that it takes a humungous amount of energy to create even a tiny amount of mass. In fact, the energy required to create a single gram of matter is equivalent to the energy it would take to drive a car around the Earth 700 times.

Presenter 2: Where are we on our recipe? We’ve got particles, given them energy, controlled the beam and smashed them together, creating a whole load of new particles, bananas, mangoes, Higgs bosons, things like that… So now, we need to work out how to see what we’ve found with a particle detector.

So, let’s start with a question: who thinks they have particles from outer space passing through passing through them right now? I’ll give you a clue (raises hand).

We can’t see them, we can’t feel them, we can’t taste them, but we know they’re there because we can see them if we use a particle detector. And we’ve got a kind of particle detector here called a cloud chamber. So, if we just switch over to the feed…what can we see? Every little trail of cloud comes from a particle called a muon passing through the chamber. The chamber is full of a vapour made from kind of alcohol called propanol, and the muon causes that propanol to condense into tiny cloud drops which we can see with our eyes.

These muons are produced when particles called ‘cosmic rays’ from space smash into the atoms in the upper atmosphere…and the only particles which make it all the way down to the surface of the Earth are muons. In fact, there are 10,000 muons passing through every square metre of the Earth at sea level all the time…so there are a few going through you each second as you sit here listening to me talking about them.

Presenter 1: That simple cloud chamber used to be the cutting edge of particle detectors, but in a modern particle accelerator we have something a bit more advanced. This is a picture of the cavern which houses the ATLAS detector at the LHC before they put the detector inside. It’s huge, the tiny little man there is actually a fully-grown person! It’s 22 metres across and 42 metres long. Then, this is what it looks like when it’s rammed full of electronics. The whole thing weighs 7,000 tonnes. This huge thing uses electronics to detect the particles—it’s actually something like a giant digital camera. Now do any of you have a digital camera? How many megapixels does it have? 10? 15 if you’ve got a posh one? Well, that ATLAS detector has 100 megapixels!

Presenter 2: That’s actually a bit rubbish: this thing is 42 metres across, 22 metres long, weighs 7,000 tonnes, and it’s only as good as ten digital cameras?

Presenter 1: OK, all right, that’s not so impressive, but how many pictures can your camera take per second? If you hold the shutter button down? One or two? A video camera takes about 25 pictures a second. Well, the ATLAS detector can do 40 million pictures every second! And 40 million 100 megapixel images is going to fill up your memory card pretty fast.

Presenter 2: So this is a picture of one of the supercomputers used to store and process all that data. This is one of the datacentres in CERN, but there are actually centres all over the world to process it all. In fact, a new kind of network called ‘the grid’ has been developed in order to share all the information and processing out to different computers all across the globe.

So, that’s pretty much it for our recipe. (recap recipe)

Now, we’d just like to give you a quick tour of some of the detectors at the LHC, to give you a taste of the big science questions we’re trying to answer.

This is the picture we saw earlier showing the tunnel, deep underground, and this is what most of the LHC looks like: 27 km all the way around. However, there are four detectors, each designed to work out the answer to a different physics question.

This is LHCb, and in fact this is a picture of a simulated particle collision with all the debris coming off and going through different layers of the detector, designed to detect all the different particles which might be produced. LHCb is trying to work out where all the antimatter has gone. Has anyone heard of antimatter? It turns out that every matter particle, like an electron or a proton, has an antimatter partner, an antielectron and an antiproton. If they come into contact, they disappear! However, we think that there should have been equal amounts of matter and antimatter created at the start of the why hasn’t everything just disappeared? Why was there a small amount of matter left over to make us, the stars and galaxies, and almost everything we’ve ever seen? LHCb is looking for tiny differences between the way matter and antimatter behave, to try to work out why matter won!

Presenter 1: This is the picture of ATLAS we saw earlier, taken before all the detector electronics were inserted, and this is a picture of another detector, called CMS. These are both ‘general-purpose’ detectors, and are looking for any exciting new particles we might find. In particular, you might have heard in the news about the Higgs boson. The Higgs is a particle predicted by theory but never seen in experiments which should give all other particles mass. The so-called Standard Model of particle physics explains a lot of different properties of particles, but it can’t explain why things have mass without the Higgs boson! At this moment, the LHC is being used to look in all the different places the Higgs might be, and so far, we don’t think we’ve found anything. If we do find the Higgs in one of the places we’ve not checked yet, it will be a pretty amazing validation of the Standard Model—but if we don’t, it might be even more exciting, because it opens the door to all kinds of new physics which we can currently only guess about!

The LHC is the world’s largest machine, built by thousands of scientists and engineers from hundreds of different countries to answer some of the most fundamental questions in physics. It’s a bit like the Moon landings of our generation and, even better, you could all get involved if you want to: it takes thousands of scientists to work out what all the data coming out of the LHC mean, and it’s going to be years before we fully understand it all—maybe even enough years that, by the time you’ve done your degrees and PhDs, the results will still be being analysed.

Presenter 2: And whilst all this fundamental discovery is happening, the same technology developed for fundamental physics research is being used in the 20,000 accelerators around the world to treat cancer, design microchips and even to make chocolate taste better! If that isn’t a noble endeavour, I don’t know what is.

So thanks for listening to Accelerate!, and we do like to finish with a bang, so who thinks we should blow up one more hydrogen balloon?