This Year’s First Café Scientifique Sept. 25

Poster designed by a Café Youth Leadership Team member. Courtesy/CS

Café Scientifique News:

This year’s first Café Scientifique in Los Alamos is set for 7-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 25 in the second floor conference room of the Los Alamos Research Park.

Theoretical physicist Vincenzo Cirigliano will discuss the macro-cosmos of stars and galaxies and the micro-cosmos of subatomic particles, which are intimately connected, more than you might think!
The story of this interconnection is full of twists and mysteries, and it seems that the more we learn, the more we are puzzled. One of the greatest puzzles has to do with the crucial imbalance between matter and antimatter in the Universe. In fact, we have learned that every fundamental particle in Nature has a corresponding antiparticle: when the two meet, they annihilate into a burst of radiation. The Big Bang produced particles and antiparticles in equal numbers, so, as the primordial soup cooled, they should have wiped each other out, leaving behind an empty Universe. There would be no…us!

But that’s not what happened! Instead, an excess of ordinary matter survived over the antimatter, from which the stars and galaxies bedazzling our night sky and we ourselves were formed. How did this happen? Can the known laws of physics explain it? What can subatomic physics experiments teach us about this great mystery of our Universe?

In the Sept. 25 Café, Cirigliano will guide students through the fascinating interface between the physics of subatomic particles at extremely small scales and the physics of the cosmos at extremely large scales. He will help stidents get to know this strange twin of matter, called antimatter, revisit the early dramatic moments of our Universe’s history, and learn about the key ingredients needed to create the lopsided Universe we live in.

About the Presenter

I first became interested in science when as a teenager I watched “Cosmos,” the documentary series by Carl Sagan. That experience had a deep influence on me; that’s when I realized that science is cool, and I wanted it to be part of my life. Later on, an uncle of mine made me read a book by Steven Weinberg, “The First Three Minutes.” In this book, Weinberg describes the Big Bang and how subatomic particles shaped the evolution of the early universe in its first three minutes of existence. Though I could grasp only a small fraction of the contents of that book, I was deeply fascinated by the connections between subatomic particles and the Cosmos.

Wanting to learn more, I decided to study physics in college and I ended up being a theoretical physicist, working 10,000 kilometers away from my hometown in southern Italy! Today, it is that very same desire of “wanting to know more” that drives my work.

I collaborate with several colleagues at Los Alamos National Laboratory; together we pursue a broad research program aimed at understanding the laws of nature at very short distances, 10-17 new particles and interactions? How can we uncover their existence? How have they shaped the evolution of the universe, and how do they affect the life and death of stars? centimeters or smaller. We ask questions such as: Are there new particles and interactions? How can we uncover their existence? How have they shaped the evolution of the universe, and how do they affect the life and death of stars?