"It's all about mass" The 2020 Particle Physics Christmas Lecture

5 Dec 2020 - 2:00pm to 4:00pm
Physics Alumni & Public

"It's all about mass" by Prof Young-Kee Kim

Hosted by Prof Daniela Bortoletto, Head of Particle Physics, with Prof Young-Kee Kim as our guest speaker, this year's Particle Physics Christmas Lecture will take place on Saturday 5th of December, from 14:00 to 16:00 hrs GMT.

Prof Kim is the Chair of The Department of Physics of the University of Chicago, Chair of the American Physics Society Division of Particle & Fields (APS DPF) and organizer of SNOWMASS 2021


Subatomic-particle research has made enormous progress in the 20th Century by looking inside matter at deeper and deeper levels. It is as if we were peeling the layers of an onion in the hopes of finding more basic rules for the structure of nature. Although the concept of the ultimate building blocks of matter has been modified in several essential respects in the last century, Democritus’s idea remains at the foundation of modern science. Great experiments of the 20-th century have led to the discovery of ever-smaller entities that make up what were once thought to be indivisible particles. Moreover, the theory of the very small has been shown to be intimately connected to the largest scales imaginable – cosmology and the beginnings of the universe. Despite these considerable successes, the current theory has within it the seeds of its own demise and is predicted to break down when probed at even smaller scales. One of such examples is the origin of mass of fundamental particles. We have achieved a beautiful and profound understanding of how fundamental particles acquire their mass, but the mass values remain deeply mysterious. In addition, we learned that ordinary matter supplies only a small fraction of mass in the Universe. We continue to peel away at the more hidden layers of truth with the hope of discovering a more elegant and complete theory. But as is the case with the onion, we must wonder whether there will ever emerge an ultimate layer where the peeling must stop.

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Image: Copyright Prof Kim.

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