Every other year, particle physicists gather together to share their latest results at the ICHEP (International Conference on High Energy Physics) conference. This year, more than 700 are attending the conference in Melbourne, Australia, July 4-11.
ATLAS has sent the results of several dozen new analyses to ICHEP, covering the full scientific programme of the experiment, both precision measurements of Standard Model processes and searches for new physical phenomena - including the Higgs boson. An exciting preview of the Higgs searches was presented at a special joint video-linked seminar at CERN on the opening day of the conference.
The ATLAS physics results presented include the full 2011 data set and — in make cases — the April to June 2012 LHC run, which more than doubled the total data collected. The variety of results extends well beyond the Higgs. ATLAS has combined its measurements of the mass of the top quark — the heaviest elementary particle known — with similar measurements from CMS for an accuracy better than either experiment could reach on its own. Also, there are searches for new forces between particles; ATLAS is sensitive to particles with ranges only 1/20th of the range of the so-called "weak force", which itself has a range of only a tiny fraction of the radius of the proton.
In addition, there are several searches for new "supersymmetric" particles. These hypothesized particles may be related to the mysterious dark matter that makes up 84% of the matter in the universe. Moreover, many new results on direct searches for signatures of "exotic" particles that could be candidates for the above-mentioned dark matter or evidence for the existence of additional spatial dimensions beyond the familial three are being presented.
More than physicists are benefitting from the excitement of ICHEP; an unprecedented effort has been made this year to include the public and the media. Starting with a public webcast of the Higgs Seminar on the 4th, activities include an ATLAS exhibit at the Planetarium in Scienceworks, Masterclasses for high school students, teacher development day, a public panel discussion, and a public talk by ATLAS spokesperson Fabiola Gianotti.
Conference attendees took part in an Outreach & Education parallel session on Saturday morning. The session featured presentations by scientific communication experts, including CERN’s Director General Rolf-Dieter Heuer and Australia’s famous radio personality Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki. An interactive session included a panel discussion with Social Media experts and a Public Q&A session in the form of a Google Hangout.