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Coast to Coast - Spring 2010

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Tour of Particle Physics
Speaker: Dr. Pierre Savard (University of Toronto / TRIUMF)
Live from: University of Toronto

Particle physics is entering a new era with the startup of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Geneva. This revolutionary new instrument will open the door to many new discoveries that will shed light on the structure of the Universe at the highest energy scales ever studied. This talk is a survey of the important open questions in particle physics, many of which will be addressed at the LHC. It will also serve as an introduction to the subsequent colloquia in the Coast-to-Coast series for winter/spring 2010.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Experimental Techniques in Particle Physics or "What are they really doing in Geneva?!"
Speaker: Dr. Michel Vetterli (Simon Fraser University / TRIUMF)
Live from: Simon Fraser University

With the recent startup of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Geneva, there has been renewed interest in particle physics, which has led to a plethora of articles and presentations for the public on what is being done at the new experiments. This colloquium will present not the what, but the how. How do physicists study Nature at incredibly small distance scales? It is perhaps paradoxical that viewing the world at very small scale requires the largest machines ever built. This talk will present the basic physics concepts involved in experimental subatomic physics. This includes a description of the gigantic accelerators (the probes), and detectors (the eyes) used. Particle physics experiments produce an enormous amount of data. This talk will also discuss the large-scale computing necessary to mine these data, as well as the advanced analysis techniques required to extract very rare events from the preponderance of well-understood background processes.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Probing the Origin of Mass: the First Light of ATLAS Data
Speaker: Dr. Rob McPherson (University of Victoria)
Live from: Simon Fraser University

Four decades of experimental results and theoretical developments point us to energies of one trillion electron volts, or about a thousand times the mass of the proton, to search for the processes that give mass to elementary particles. Reaching such high energies required a new particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which has recently begun operation at the CERN laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland. The physics case for the LHC and the massive ATLAS detector which records the results of the interactions that might produce the Higgs boson or other new particles is discussed, and an LHC status report including a first look at ATLAS data is presented.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Unbearable Lightness of Being (A Neutrino)
Speaker: Dr. Scott Oser (University of British Columbia)

Live from: TRIUMF

If you took an electron and stripped away all of its charge and all of its mass, would you have anything left?  Incredibly enough, he answer is yes---a neutrino!  Invented originally as an "accounting trick" to balance the books in nuclear reactions, we now know eutrinos to be among the lightest and hardest to detect particles in he world. Billions of them are flying through your body as you read his abstract. I will explain what we know about these phantom-like articles and the unique challenges we face in studying their roperties.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Generation Puzzle: Symmetries and Mysteries
Speaker: Dr. Bob Kowalewski (University of Victoria)

Live from: Simon Fraser University


The world we experience is essentially made of three fundamental particles: the electron and the two kinds of quarks that make up protons and neutrons. Yet nature has chosen to copy this structure at least twice more, with each copy heavier than the last. How have these extra "generations" shaped the universe we live in? Studies of particles containing the heavier quarks have revealed fascinating phenomena: the pure left-handed nature of the charged Weak interaction; the spontaneous transmutation of matter into antimatter and back; and a mechanism for breaking matter-antimatter symmetry, which may be connected to the dominance of matter in our universe. Sensitive measurements in this area have guided the development of our theories and will provide constraints on any new theories that may be proposed in light of discoveries at the Large Hadron Collider. This talk will review the highlights of flavour physics from the discovery of "strange" particles through the present.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Reading the Tea Leaves: What Lies Beyond the Standard Model?
Speaker: Dr. Cliff Burgess (McMaster University, Perimeter Institute)

Live from: McMaster University


The turn-on of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will ikely fundamentally change our picture of how nature works on the smallest of distances we can probe. This lecture reviews the case for why failure to discover something is believed not to be an option; and what the successes and failures of the Standard Model tell us about what is likely to be, and not to be, out there awaiting discovery. Most proposals fall into three main categories, whose broad properties are outlined. I close with my personal opinions about what will be found.

IRMACS and AARMS host the Coast to Coast Seminar Series in partnership with ACEnet, SHARCNET, SCInet and WestGrid. This is a series of talks covering topics in mathematics and computer science, presented by researchers across Canada. These seminars are typically an hour in length and are presented using Access Grid videoconferencing facilities. To attend these seminars in person, please refer to the participating locations listed on our Seminar Locations page. If you have any questions or would like more information about this seminar series, please email

If you have any speaker or seminar topic suggestions, please send them to