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April 28, 2014

Two Public Events in May Will Showcase Nuclear Physics

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By Jim Raper

If you live in southeastern Virginia and you're interested in nuclear physics, the month of May holds two special opportunities to expand your understanding of the Big Bang - and the particles and forces that form matter as we know it. Old Dominion physicists will be part of both events.

On Wednesday, May 14, Naro Expanded Cinema in Norfolk's Ghent business district will feature a 7:15 p.m. showing of the documentary "Particle Fever," which is about the search for - and believed discovery in 2012 of - the Higgs boson, the so-called "God particle," at the Large Hadron Collider in Europe. Three nuclear physics researchers affiliated with ODU and the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News will speak and answer questions at the conclusion of the film.

On Saturday, May 17, Jefferson Lab will hold one of its popular daylong open houses. These extraordinary events, held only once every two years, allow visitors an up-close look at the facility, which includes a mile-long accelerator that speeds electrons along at close to the speed of light. ODU researchers will have key roles in presenting programs and exhibits that will be part of the open house.

The film at the Naro, for which there will be an admission charge, gives audiences a front row seat to a profound scientific breakthrough. It follows six scientists during the launch of the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, marking the start-up of the biggest and most expensive experiment in the history of the planet. Seeking to unravel the mysteries of the universe, 10,000 scientists from more than 100 countries joined forces in pursuit of a single goal: to recreate conditions that existed just moments after the "big bang" and find the Higgs boson, potentially explaining the origin of all matter.

More about the film, directed by physicist turned filmmaker Mark Levinson, is at http://particlefever.com.

Leading the discussion after the film will be ODU faculty members Lawrence Weinstein, Eminent Scholar and University Professor of Physics; Charles Hyde, professor of physics; and Todd Satogata, Jefferson Lab Professor of Physics.

Weinstein and Hyde are leading researchers at Jefferson Lab and Satogata divides his time between faculty duties at ODU and his work as a senior scientist with the lab.

The Jefferson Lab open house, which is free and offers free parking, will be held rain or shine. It begins at 9 a.m. and cutoff for entry is at 2 p.m. Visitors can stay at the facility until 3 p.m. More about the event, including directions to public parking, is posted on the event website at: https://www.jlab.org/openhouse.

ODU's Center for Accelerator Science will staff a booth at the open house, and nuclear physics researchers at ODU will have a separate exhibit about their work. In addition, Weinstein will give a talk during the event.

The theme for the open house will be "Accelerating Discovery," drawing attention to the upgrade under way at Jefferson Lab that will double the energy of its electron accelerator to 12 billion electron volts.

Visitors will be able to tour the accelerator and the lab's newest experimental hall - Hall D - where state-of-the-art particle detectors are being installed. The accelerator upgrade and the new experimental area are part of a $338 million project, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science and scheduled for completion by Sept. 30, 2017, that will allow the lab to continue as a world leader in nuclear physics research. The project is providing new and enhanced research capabilities for the 1,250 scientists, from more than 250 institutions, who come to Jefferson Lab to carry out experiments.

Many of the lab's research and work areas will be accessible or on display for the event. Exhibits, demonstrations, tours and hands-on activities will be available, providing a day of education and fun for people of all ages.

Visitors will be able to talk to and learn firsthand from staff and visiting scientists about the range of research under way at the lab, as well as its particle-acceleration capability (superconducting radiofrequency), a technology for which there is growing interest in the U.S. and abroad. The lab's supercomputing and simulation capabilities will be on display, and research labs in the Free-Electron Laser Facility will be open.

The event strives to be family friendly and will feature a variety of hands-on, science-education activities for the young and young-at-heart.