UCSB physics professor Joseph Incandela was named spokesperson of a major experiment at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland earlier this month.A 17-mile-long circular tunnel situ- ated over 300 feet beneath the city, the LHC — the largest, most powerful experimental high-energy particle accelerator ever created — is designed to detect new subatomic particles, and, in the process, answer some fundamental questions about the creation of the uni- verse.
Widely acclaimed as the largest inter- national scientific collaboration the world has ever seen, the LHC comprises numerous experiments, although with a work force of over 3,000 representing 39 countries, the international Compact Muon Solenoid project is one of its most significant undertakings. Incandela is the first United States scientist to be chosen as a spokesperson for an LHC experiment.
According to Incandela, the CMS experiments will provide the scientific community with a deeper understanding of high-energy physics.
“We are expected to make major discoveries so that even the absence of a discovery will be big news,” Incandela said in an email. “Attention will be on us from the physics community and from international news media with a fair portion focused on the spokespersons.”
The LHC is capable of launching particles of energy through the under- ground loop at the rate at over 11,000 laps per second and then smash those particles together to recreate conditions that only existed naturally in the first seconds after the Big Bang. The CMS — which weighs 14,000 metric tons and contains four stories of apparatus — detects and analyzes the collision at the moment of impact.
Although more than 40 UCSB stu- dents, researchers and faculty members assisted in construction efforts, Incan- dela said work at the LHC has predomi- nantly been performed with European resources and manpower. This makes it more difficult for an American scientist to be elected to the prestigious position.
“The Large Hadron Collider accelera- tor and experiments are mostly developed by the 20 member countries of the Euro- pean Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), and so the physicists with close ties to the biggest contributions to the experiment are frequently from the 20 member states,” Incandela said.
While UCSB has already acquired some international notoriety, Physics Dept. Vice Chair Harry Nelson said Incandela’s involvement in the project will further the campus’ reputation.
“Joe is a natural leader and he’s tire- less,” Nelson said. “I think he focuses on deep issues and everybody ends up respecting the work that he does.”
Incandela will assume the two-year term as spokesperson for the CMS experiment on Jan. 1, 2012.
As of 2010, costs to build and operate the LHC tallied to around $9 billion.