Talking Physics And Grid In London

Fri 23rd March 2012

Last night Prof. Peter Clarke from GridPP gave the 103rd annual Kelvin Lecture to a packed out lecture theatre in central London. Titled “From protons to petabytes – the science and computing challenges at the Large Hadron Collider”, the talk was warmly received by the crowd, with a lively discussion afterwards.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) smashes together protons at close to the speed of light and is the world’s most powerful machine. Nothing has ever been built on this scale before. Prof. Clarke’s talk was a vivid examination of the implications that this has not only on physics but also how the community copes with crunching the data being generated.

Starting from the very beginning of time Prof. Clarke laid out what we currently understand about the universe from its state just after the big bang to the unaccountable 95% of its contents. With the LHC taking us to within 10-12 seconds of the big bang he discussed the massive engineering challenges this brings, super conducting magnets, 5 storey high detectors and the attendant data deluge.

He also discussed the latest physics results, with data on the Higgs boson that was less than two weeks old. Once he had taken the audience on this tour around the world’s largest experiment he took questions from the floor covering black holes, super symmetry, matter/anti-matter imbalance and even the carbon footprint of the LHC.

Prof. Peter Clarke
Prof. Peter Clarke at the Kelvin Lecture

“I was very honoured to be asked by the IET to give this year’s Kelvin lecture, and delighted I could combine the physics, the engineering and the computing sides of my interests in the LHC” says Prof. Clarke “The crowd were great, I wasn’t expecting such a turn out and the questions afterwards showed they really engaged with the talk”.

Hosted by the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET), the lecture is one of the most prestigious in the UK. Set up to honour Lord Kelvin, the first one was in April 1908, only 4 months after the death of the giant of modern science. Prof. Clarke joins a very illustrious list of previous speakers including Ernest Rutherford (1922), J J Thomson (1926), Fred Hoyle (1970), Harry Kroto (1998) and Simon Singh (2007).

You can watch the recorded lecture on IET TV.

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