What the universe is made of

The massive team that helped discover the Higgs boson is now hunting more exotic particles, including dark matter.

The ATLAS collaboration involves more than 3,000 physicists from around the world. In 2012, results from ATLAS were vital to the discovery of the Higgs boson, the particle that gives mass to everything in the Universe.

The 7000-tonne ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider on the border of France and Switzerland tracks up to a billion collisions between high-energy protons each second. French and Australian physicists are at the forefront of efforts to decipher this torrent of data.

Professor Elisabetta Barberio at The University of Melbourne is one of the key researchers in the ATLAS collaboration.

“We learn about the Universe, what it is made of and how it all fits together at the fundamental level,” Elisabetta explains.

Elisabetta worked closely with Dr Marumi Kado and Dr Louis Fayard, both of the LAL Orsay particle physics lab run by CNRS and the Université Paris-Sud, in the Higgs discovery.

“Marumi was the Higgs analysis coordinator and a very big player in the discovery,” Elisabetta says.

“And Louis has been one of the main proponents of ATLAS since the beginning in the early ‘90s.”

Elisabetta collaborated with Dr Sara Diglio, formerly of CPPM Marseille and now at Ecole des Mines de Nantes, on a study of possible connections between the Higgs boson and dark matter.

While the logistics of international collaboration can be complex, the results are well worth the effort.

“We share ideas, equipment and computer code,” she explains.

“Day-to-day interactions are done via video conference, but also face-to-face at CERN—so I travel a lot to France.”

Banner Image: The enormous ATLAS detector. Credit: CERN