The next frontier in physics may require teeny-tiny answers to big questions, and vice versa
Call it macro-micro physics: the study of the huge paired with the study of the very, very small.
In a new National Science Foundation-funded project, University at Buffalo physicists are looking to bridge the gap between two related but distinctive fields: the study of “outer space” (stars and galaxies) and “inner space” (fundamental particles and forces).
That description is from UB Professor Will Kinney, one of the three scientists involved. His partners on the research are Associate Professor Dejan Stojkovic, the principal investigator, and Professor Doreen Wackeroth.
To explain their project further: In the moments after the Big Bang, when the universe was young, it was an incredibly hot, dense soup of matter and energy.
Today, physicists can study this unique time in history by creating a similar environment inside giant machines called particle accelerators, which slam teeny-tiny protons into one another to create even smaller particles. The accelerators are like a “time machine,” enabling scientists to study the conditions of the baby universe, Wackeroth says.
This is just one way in which research on the huge (cosmology) and the miniscule (subatomic particles and particle acceleration) are connected.
Taken together, the two fields could provide answers to some of the most important questions in physics today: How did our universe begin? How do gravity and quantum mechanics relate to one another? And what is the role of the vacuum in space and time?
The new project will advance knowledge in all of these areas.
“If you want to understand the macro — the cosmos — you have to understand the micro,” Stojkovic says.
Read more: The Wild West of physics
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