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Experimental Nuclear and Particle Physics
MIT Physics Department faculty work with their research groups in MIT's Laboratory for Nuclear Science (LNS) to understand the structures and interactions of the fundamental constituents of matter. They carry out research in nuclear and particle physics, subfields that are seamlessly integrated at MIT. Their work is often done with large experimental equipment located away from MIT, using state-of-the-art computers, and with guidance and assistance from highly skilled engineering and technical staff.
For example, MIT scientists are working to understand how basic properties of the proton, e.g. mass and spin, arise from quarks and gluons. This research involves high energy scattering experiments at RHIC at Brookhaven National Laboratory and at other accelerators, theoretical calculations, and large scale computation.
Other MIT physicists explore the phases of systems of quarks and gluons by creating droplets of the hottest matter anywhere in the universe (since it was a few microseconds old) in ultra- relativistic heavy ion collisions at RHIC and soon at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva.
At the high energy frontier, MIT faculty are leading the search for the Higgs boson as well as new physics beyond the Standard Model at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Geneva, Switzerland. This involves the largest, most sophisticated particle detectors ever constructed as well as highly elaborate computer systems to record the huge amount of data.
At MIT, the development of ingenious detectors to look for direct evidence of the dark matter that makes up 85% of the mass of the universe is underway. A large MIT group based at CERN is preparing the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer for its transfer to the International Space Station, where it will be the first superconducting magnet in orbit, designed to observe dark matter particles annihilating in distant space.
MIT physicists are working to determine the mass of the electron neutrino and to detect the one type of neutrino oscillation that has not yet been seen. The consequences in the early universe of a small and subtle asymmetry of the laws of physics result in the universe being made of matter not antimatter; that same asymmetry should give every neutron in all the matter around us today a tiny electric dipole moment, which is being sought by studying the neutron's response to electric and magnetic fields.