Spotlight


Spotlight

  
Dr. Patrick F. Kelly

As 2012 came to an end, Professors Rodriguez and Kelly settled up on a gentlemen's wager that was made as the year began. Rodriguez had predicted that the Higgs particle -- whether it exists or not -- would not be found among the data taken at the LHC during 2012, while Kelly held the opinion that the Higgs would make an incontrovertible appearance. In July, CERN announced that a particle "just like the Higgs" had been discovered. When Professor Rodriquez attempted to claim that something Higgs-like is not quite The Higgs, Professor Kelly countered that "one ought not argue with Time Magazine's Particle of The Year!" Now, we are both eagerly awaiting the inevitable surprises that will come when additional properties of this new particle are revealed.

Many in the theoretical physics community are anticipating that the next significant breakthrough will be the direct validation or confirmation of supersymmetry (a rather beautiful idea) through the discovery of superpartners to the known elementary particles. However, both Kelly and Rodriguez would prefer to bet against this.

Several other major developments around the world also caught our fancy. The discovery of an experimental system featuring majorana fermions was a particular treat. Such fermions are their own antiparticles, like the (bosonic) photon. While people have long speculated about the possibility of neutrinos being majorana fermions, until last year, no evidence existed that any majorana particles were present in nature.

On the subject of neutrinos, the Daya Bay Reactor Neutrino Experiment, carried out by an international consortium operating in Guangdong province in southern China, obtained a very precise measurement of theta13, the final mixing-angle piece of the leptonic part of the standard model. The measured value is relatively large, proving that neutrinos are still surprising us after nearly eighty years of theoretical and experimental prodding.

A recently published popular book -- The Infinity Puzzle: Quantum Field Theory and the Hunt for an Orderly Universe, by Frank Close (of Exeter College at Oxford), impressed us greatly. It provides a most enjoyable read, describing the many scientists who contributed to our understanding of the Higgs mechanism, and their labours which culminated in the formulation of the Standard Model of particle physics.

Closer to home, the AMU Physics Major started in Fall 2012. Already we have half-a-dozen or so students declared -- and this with no appreciable amount of advertising. The AMU admissions crew are spreading the word in earnest this year and we are anticipating an enthusiastic response.

A number of the physics majors are studying in the recently instituted honors program (taking enriched humanities courses alongside their rigorous physical science and mathematics classes), or are participating in intercollegiate athletics. Either way, they are an interesting and (very) active bunch.

Current information about the physics program and curricular offerings is to be found at the program web-site PHYSHOME.html.