One of the most fascinating aspects of particle physics is its close connection with astrophysics and cosmology. In particular, many of the fundamental questions about our Universe - such as the origin of matter, the formation of structures including galaxies, stars and eventually ourselves, the great size and age of the Universe – can only be answered in the universal language of particle physics. During the past week, I have been developing these connections in several different places (and languages!).
The Swiss Institute for Particle Physics organized a meeting at the Integral satellite Science Data Centre (ISDC, see the first picture) to brainstorm ideas for possible new projects in astroparticle physics during the LHC era. Thierry Courvoisier, the head of the ISDC, gave an astrophysicist’s point of view - centred more on energetic objects in the present-day Universe such as gamma-ray bursters, active galactic nuclei, X-ray sources – and I presented a particle particle physicist’s point of view – centred more on the early Universe and the detection of dark matter via direct or indirect means. High-energy astrophysics and cosmology are both interesting, but they are not the same, and now it is up to the Swiss particle physicists to decide what they want to do!
The following day, I was off to the Physics Department of the University of Geneva, at the invitation of Alain Blondel, to give an evening lecture to the general public (in French) on ‘La Naissance de la Matière’ (see the second picture). (This talk compensated for a talk scheduled earlier which I was unable to give because I was grounded at Buenos Aires airport – see my post of March 19th.) The symbiosis between particle physics and cosmology is clearly a big draw for laypeople and prospective students, as well as intellectually fascinating in its own right.
Finally, yesterday I was off to the Accademia dei Lincei in Rome at the invitation of Milla Baldo-Ceolin (see the third picture) to give another public lecture (this time in Italian) on ‘La Nascita de la Materia’. This was almost a direct translation of the Geneva talk, and preparing it brought home to me how much Italian I had yet to learn, though my hosts were very polite! Founded 402 years ago, one of the Accademia’s first members was Galileo. It now meets in the venerable Palazzo Corsini in the popular Trastevere area of central Rome. This abounds in characteristic eateries: too bad that I had only enough time to sample one!