The University of Southampton

Southampton scientists wait for the Big Bang!

8 September 2008

Physicists at the University of Southampton, along with scientists and engineers around the world, are eagerly anticipating the start of the world's biggest scientific experiment when the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is switched on next Wednesday 10 September 2008.

The LHC is the most powerful particle accelerator ever built and aims to find answers to some of the fundamental questions about the Universe, such as whether there are more than four dimensions of space-time and whether dark matter really exists.

On 10 September, the LHC - located 100 metres below ground at the European Particle Physics Laboratory CERN near Geneva in Switzerland - will be switched on and the first attempt to send the particle beam around its entire 27 kms length will be made.

Professor Nick Evans, of the University's School of Physics and Astronomy, comments: "This is an incredibly exciting time for physics. The LHC will help scientists to unlock the secrets of our Universe. The great thing about this experiment is that we know we must find something new because our current theories don't explain what will happen at LHC - we have some guesses which may or may not be right, but whatever the results, the LHC will herald a new age in our understanding of physics."

The University recently established the NExT Institute in partnership with the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, the Royal Holloway University of London and the University of Sussex to enable theoretical and experimental scientists to work together to exploit the research data from experiments carried out at the LHC.

Dr Stefano Moretti, who heads up the NExT Institute, says: "We are at a crossroads in high energy particle physics research. Accurate and speedy analysis of data from LHC experiments will lead to a deeper understanding of the matter and forces which make up our Universe. It may even result in the elusive 'theory of everything' which physicists have been working towards for many years! The new kind of close collaboration between scientists necessary to achieve this is exactly that encouraged by the NExT Institute."

The University's School of Physics and Astronomy has a long standing reputation for research of international excellence in the fields of theoretical particle physics as well as astronomy, laser physics, and quantum, light and matter. The University hosts a national Particle Physics Masterclass each year to enable sixth-form physics students to experience the excitement of research in this field.

In addition to his research work, Professor Evans has also written The Newtonian Legacy, a murder mystery exploring the physics of the LHC which is available free online at:

Notes for editors

  • For more information about the NExT Institute visit

  • The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship across a wide range of subjects in engineering, science, social sciences, health and humanities.

    With over 22,000 students, around 5000 staff, and an annual turnover of over £350 million, the University of Southampton is acknowledged as one of the country's top institutions for engineering, computer science and medicine. We combine academic excellence with an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to research, supporting a culture that engages and challenges students and staff in their pursuit of learning.

    The University is also home to a number of world-leading research centres, including the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, the Optoelectronics Research Centre, the Centre for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, and the Mountbatten Centre for International Studies.

  • For further information
    Sue Wilson, Communications, University of Southampton,
    Tel. 023 8059 5457, email:

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