Episode 27 – Dr. Florian Goertz

CERN is the razor’s bleeding edge of frontier science; these experiments quite possibly will give mankind a perspective into the nature of reality as we’ve never before understood or seen.

CERN or (in french: Organisation européenne pour la recherche nucléaire) is the The European Organization for Nuclear Research  and what the scientists at CERN happen to be doing is indubitably going to change scientific theory as we understand it.

In the mid 1960’s a particle physicist named Peter Higgs, came up with an idea that there may be a particle floating around that we could observe. CERN has effectively built the machine necessary to find this elusive particle and went on to prove that theory by finding what is now known as the Higgs Boson.

This feat is by no means small, CERN is the largest laboratory in the world – it spans two countries and runs in a tunnel 27 kilometers round and 175 meters deep; beneath the French and Swiss Boarder near Geneva Switzerland. it’s also credited with birthing the internet.

The aim of the LHC is to allow physicists to test the predictions of different theories of particle physics and high energy physics like – the standard model and other newer particles predicted by supersymmetric theories.

Dr. Florian Goertz

Dr. Florian Goertz

In this episode we speak with Dr. Florian Goertz who is part of the theory division at CERN – a highly interesting individual with one of the most interesting jobs on the planet.

You can find the experiments being conducted with the LHC here: http://home.web.cern.ch/about/experiments


At CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, physicists and engineers are probing the fundamental structure of the universe. They use the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments to study the basic constituents of matter – the fundamental particles. The particles are made to collide together at close to the speed of light. The process gives the physicists clues about how the particles interact, and provides insights into the fundamental laws of nature.The instruments used at CERN are purpose-built particle accelerators and detectors. Accelerators boost beams of particles to high energies before the beams are made to collide with each other or with stationary targets. Detectors observe and record the results of these collisions.

Founded in 1954, the CERN laboratory sits astride the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and now has 21 member states.


In 1928, British physicist Paul Dirac wrote down an equation that combined quantum theory and special relativity to describe the behavior of an electron moving at a relativistic speed. The equation – which won Dirac the Nobel prize in 1933(link is external) – posed a problem: just as the equation x2=4 can have two possible solutions (x=2 or x=-2), so Dirac’s equation could have two solutions, one for an electron with positive energy, and one for an electron with negative energy. But classical physics (and common sense) dictated that the energy of a particle must always be a positive number.

Dirac interpreted the equation to mean that for every particle there exists a corresponding antiparticle, exactly matching the particle but with opposite charge. For the electron there should be an “anti-electron”, for example, identical in every way but with a positive electric charge. The insight opened the possibility of entire galaxies and universes made of antimatter.

But when matter and antimatter come into contact, they annihilate – disappearing in a flash of energy. The big bang should have created equal amounts of matter and antimatter. So why is there far more matter than antimatter in the universe?

At CERN, physicists make antimatter to study in experiments. The starting point is the Antiproton Decelerator, which slows down antiprotons so that physicists can investigate their properties.

The Higgs Boson:

On 4 July 2012, the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider announced they had each observed a new particle in the mass region around 126 GeV. This particle is consistent with the Higgs boson predicted by the Standard Model. The Higgs boson, as proposed within the Standard Model, is the simplest manifestation of the Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism. Other types of Higgs bosons are predicted by other theories that go beyond the Standard Model.

On 8 October 2013 the Nobel prize in physics(link is external) was awarded jointly to François Englert 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 LHC:

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. It first started up on 10 September 2008, and remains the latest addition to CERN’s accelerator complex. The LHC consists of a 27-kilometre ring of superconducting magnets with a number of accelerating structures to boost the energy of the particles along the way.

Inside the accelerator, two high-energy particle beams travel at close to the speed of light before they are made to collide. The beams travel in opposite directions in separate beam pipes – two tubes kept at ultrahigh vacuum. They are guided around the accelerator ring by a strong magnetic field maintained by superconducting electromagnets. The electromagnets are built from coils of special electric cable that operates in a superconducting state, efficiently conducting electricity without resistance or loss of energy. This requires chilling the magnets to ‑271.3°C – a temperature colder than outer space. For this reason, much of the accelerator is connected to a distribution system of liquid helium, which cools the magnets, as well as to other supply services.

The Birth of the Internet:

Tim Berners-Lee, a British scientist at CERN, invented the World Wide Web (WWW) in 1989. The web was originally conceived and developed to meet the demand for automatic information-sharing between scientists in universities and institutes around the world. The first website at CERN – and in the world – was dedicated to the World Wide Web project itself and was hosted on Berners-Lee’s NeXT computer. The website described the basic features of the web; how to access other people’s documents and how to set up your own server. The NeXT machine – the original web server – is still at CERN. As part of the project to restore the first website, in 2013 CERN reinstated the world’s first website to its original address. On 30 April 1993 CERN put the World Wide Web software in the public domain. CERN made the next release available with an open licence, as a more sure way to maximise its dissemination. Through these actions, making the software required to run a web server freely available, along with a basic browser and a library of code, the web was allowed to flourish.


Music for the monologue: The Glitch Mob – Harmonious


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