Particle Physics

Curriculum Connection: Most high school curricula stop their particle physics at protons, neutrons and electron - basically, the stuff that was known over 70 years ago and yet the media is full of quarks, string theory and the Large Hadron Collider. We can introduce these topics in good conscience by realizing that they are great examples of conservation laws, electricity and magnetism, circular motion and momentum. We can't do the experiments, but a number of the big accelerators have outreach programs that provide data and other resources that we can use.

NEW!!! NEW!!! The Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics has put out a new free resource Beyond the Atom - Remodelling Particle Physics, which you can order from their website. It inlcudes a 30-minute video that takes you from Rutherford's alpha particle scattering experiment of 100 years ago to the search for the Higgs Boson and a detailed teachers guide. There are five student activities includeding;

1) Video Summary: this can be combined with the video to fill one class.
2) Scattering Experiment: This activity is suitable for grade 9 students studying models of the atom.
3) Bubble Chamber Detective: This is similar to the activity below but has been improved through much testing. Nanouk Pare has translated this into French.
4) Taming the Particle Zoo: This involves taking particle cards and arranging them according to their properties and predicting new particles from what is missing in the pattern. An extended version also has the students use the up, down and strange quarks to make the particles. A really simple version can be done with just the spin 3/2 particles.It ends up prediciting the Omega minus particle, whose discovery is explored in the Bubble Chamber Detective and led to a Nobel Prize.
5) Top Quark: This is similar to the activity below but has been much improved and it includes a link to a great computer simulation from Lancaster University of the Atlas experiment that is looking for the Higgs Boson. Nanouk Pare has translated this worksheet into French.

1) Bubble Chamber Detective
This lesson looks at photographs from CERN of charged particles moving through a uniform magnetic field in a liquid hydrogen bubble chamber. It uses the Lorentz force, circular motion and some conservation laws to analyse these tracks to learn about the particles that made them

2) Conservation Rules
This lesson looks at particle events that do and do not occur. Students use these to develop conservation laws for charge, baryon number and lepton number. They also compare particle events and chemical reactions.

3) Measuring the Mass of the Top Particle
This lesson uses conservation of momentum in 2D plus the relativistic equations for momentum and energy to analyse some real data from Fermilab in order to find the mass of the Top Quark.

4) Examining The Z Particle
This lesson examines real 3D data from CERN of data generated by the Large Electron Positron collider. The physics of the accelerator and detectors are very similar to that of the Large Hadron collider. It is not as obviously an application of electromagnetism and conservation laws as the other two, but it is much more up-to-date. If you have the standard model on your curriculm, this is definitely on topic as it looks explicitely at the three generations of leptons and the behaviour of quarks.

5) Relativistic Momentum
This is a resource from TRIUMF that is also placed in the relativity section. It shows students how to measure the momenta and velocities of very fast electrons, pions and muons. They need to use v = d/t, F = qvB and equations for circular motion.

6) The Large Hadron Collider
There are a few suggestions here, but this resource needs more work.

Last updated Aug 2012