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CERN's Director-General Kicks off PLHC

06 June 2012

The Physics at the Large Hadron Collider (PLHC) conference got off to an amazing start on June 3rd with the Director-General of CERN, Rolf-Dieter Heuer, delivering an illuminating talk called “Unveiling the Universe” to a packed OMNIMAX theatre at the Telus World of Science. 

Heuer's talk addressed the fundamental questions behind many of the experiments taking place at CERN. Heuer illuminated why the search for the Higgs boson is so important, and why the search for antimatter and dark energy are so integral to better understanding our universe. We know very little about those parts of the universe, a sentiment Heuer repeated throughout the talk. In fact, this translated into the theme of the talk—that we know next to nothing about how our universe functions. The work being done at CERN is attempting to peel back the layers of the universe in order to gain a greater understanding of it and our place within it.

The public lecture is the result of the newly formed “Partners in Innovation” collaboration between TRIUMF and Science World. The collaboration saw the Outreach and Communications groups from both institutions working together on a number of different facets of the project, ranging from facility coordination to social media marketing. The collaboration was a wild success, as tickets for the OMNIMAX theatre were "sold out" very quickly after the talk was announced to the public via Facebook and Twitter. The demand for seats to the talk was so high that the Science World was prepared to open up their Science Theatre for people on the waitlist, where a simulcast of Heuer’s talk would be shown on a large screen. In the end, however, every person who attended was able to watch the talk live in the OMNIMAX theatre, which was filled to its 400-seat capacity, a fact that speaks to the overwhelming public interest in CERN and Canadian particle physics as a whole. Of the 400 attendees, a fair amount belonged to the next generation of young scientists, a few of which got to ask Dr. Heuer himself some questions about gravity, the Higgs boson, and high-energy physics.  

TRIUMF’s Outreach Coordinator, Dr. Marcello Pavan was not surprised that so many people came out to the event. “Nowadays, the LHC, because of the accelerator and the hunt for the Higgs boson, has now reached a level of cachet close to that of NASA. It has penetrated the public consciousness; people are interested in it in the same way they are interested in a NASA event.”

This was the first venture of this size undertaken by TRIUMF and Science World’s newly minted Partners in Innovation campaign and it could not have gone any better. “Science World themselves were a great organization to work with,” Marcello says. “They’re professionals. They were fantastic. They really went all-out for this.”

TRIUMF was not the only party immensely pleased by how the talk turned out. Pauline Finn, Vice President of Community Engagement for Science World told Marcello that she had never seen the OMNIMAX Theatre filled to capacity before. The public also enjoyed the talk. “I was asking people as they left,” says Marcello, “and everyone said it was great.” Dr. Heuer himself thought the talk went well and discussed a number of suggestions on what TRIUMF and Science World could do in terms of Outreach and Communications if the Higgs is indeed discovered this year.

PLHC is sponsored by TRIUMF, the University of British Columbia, the University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University, the University of Florida, the Institute of Particle Physics, the Perimeter Institute, and CERN. It is being held at UBC from June 4-9, 2012.  


--Written by Jordan Pitcher (Communications Assistant)