$78m for 'God particle' hunt

Local | Amy Nip 7 Mar 2019

A team of Hong Kong researchers has been given HK$78 million funding by the University Grants Committee to boost their research into the "God particle."

Led by physics professor Chu Ming-chung at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the team comprises of 17 researchers from CUHK, the University of Hong Kong and the University of Science and Technology.

The funding from the Areas of Excellence Scheme will boost the team's involvement in a major experiment, ATLAS, based at The European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, in Switzerland.

CERN runs the 27-kilometer Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest and most powerful particle accelerator, in which two high-energy particle beams travel close to the speed of light before colliding.

The Higgs boson, nicknamed the "God particle," was discovered in 2012.

According to the Standard Model of Particle Physics, which was established over hundreds of years, everything in the universe is made up of elementary particles - quarks and leptons.

These elementary particles interact through four kinds of fundamental interactions - strong, weak, electromagnetic, and gravity - which ultimately govern the evolution of all matter and the universe. However, breakthroughs in fundamental physics in recent years, including dark matter, dark energy, neutrino oscillations and the discovery of the Higgs particle, point to the incompleteness of the model.

The researchers joined the ATLAS experiment in 2013 and became official members a year later.

They will help with improving the detectors inside the collider, which have been shut down and are undergoing a two-year major upgrade to improve their collision energy and luminosity. They will also enhance the detector's sensitivity and ability to capture experiment data, and test new silicon pixel detectors.

They will also participate in the research and development of the Circular Electron Positron Collider in China, a US$5 billion (HK$39 billion) machine that will study the Higgs boson, if Beijing gives the green light for funding.

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