Particle Detectives on the Trail of a Time Machine

New resources to teach the biggest Science

In 2008 the biggest experiment in the world will start operations, creating conditions last seen only fractions of a second after the Big Bang. Called the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, this huge machine will act as a time machine allowing scientists to look back at the start of the Universe and answer many questions that remain in physics.

To help teachers share the excitement and challenges of a project of this magnitude with their students, the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) has produced an on-line educational pack.

Gareth James, Schools Manager of the STFC said “Cutting-edge science offers a great opportunity to explain how science works and share with students the excitement of discovery. The Large Hadron Collider will change our understanding of the early Universe as it confirms some theories, rejects others and no doubt throws up new and unexpected phenomena.

Particle Detectives allows students to share in the discovery process and meet the people, not so different from them, that are changing our view of the physical world.”

Available at www.particledetectives.net, the materials are aimed at the 14-19 age groups. Resources include ready-made presentations for teachers and students to give, an online simulator of the LHC, a latest news section and study guides for older students.

Users can access video clips of students asking, and scientists answering, questions about the LHC project. There is also information on how the materials relate to the curriculum in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.


The LHC will accelerate protons and collide them at high energies to explore the conditions of the early Universe. Scientists working on the LHC hope to learn about anti-matter, gravity, mass, extra dimensions and even discover new particles. Using the LHC simulator, students can explore the challenges of building of such a massive machine and the even bigger task of analysing the data that comes from it.

Caitriona McKnight, teacher at the Saffron Walden County High School in Essex said “I have tried it and love it. Particle detectives is a really exciting resource with a lot of high-quality materials that both teachers and students can use. The video clips of students asking scientists questions about the LHC ‘humanise’ this huge scientific endeavour, the curriculum map makes it easy for the busiest teacher to see where the particle detectives resources can be used across their science teaching and the LHC simulator captures the essence of the scientific process and the excitement of discovery”.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council produces a range of materials to support science teaching, details of other projects can be found at www.scitech.ac.uk and clicking on ‘Public and Schools’

The Large Hadron Collider is being constructed at CERN, near Geneva. The UK is a major participant in the project, funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council. To learn more about the LHC, visit www.lhc.ac.uk

Science and Technology Facilities Council of the UK

The Science and Technology Facilities Council ensures the UK retains its leading place on the world stage by delivering world-class science; accessing and hosting international facilities; developing innovative technologies; and increasing the socio-economic impact of its research through effective knowledge exchange partnerships.

The Council has a broad science portfolio including Astronomy, Particle Physics, Particle Astrophysics, Nuclear Physics, Space Science, Synchrotron Radiation, Neutron Sources and High Power Lasers. In addition the Council manages and operates three internationally renowned laboratories:

-The Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Oxfordshire
-The Daresbury Laboratory, Cheshire
-The UK Astronomy Technology Centre, Edinburgh

The Council gives researchers access to world-class facilities and funds the UK membership of international bodies such as the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN), the Institute Laue Langevin (ILL), European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO) and the European Space Agency (ESA).

It also contributes money for the UK telescopes overseas on La Palma, Hawaii, Australia and in Chile, and the MERLIN/VLBI National Facility, which includes the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank Observatory.

The Council distributes public money from the Government to support scientific research. Between 2007 and 2008 we will invest approximately £678 million.


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