The University of Cape Town will play a role in the worlds largest scientific experiment as it contributes parts to the ALICE Detector, a machine that may be able to help us understand the mysteries behind the Big Bang and particle matter relations.

Along side UCT, the University of Witswaterstrand and the research facility iThembaLABS will be contributing three key pieces to the upgrade of  the ALICE machine.  Earlier in 2018 – South Africa entered an agreement with CERN (a European organisation for nuclear research) that they would provide the parts for ALICE. The components will enable scientists to understand how particles behave inside matter at 5.5 trillion°C. ALICE will be housed in Europe at CERN,

ALICE will be an upgrade from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) which is a 27km underground particle accelerator and is based at CERN. The LHC studies how particles interact when they collide. ALICE detects ‘quark-gluon plasma’ which is an indicator of the particle activity of the Big Bang. The quark gluon plasma is thought to have formed during the big bang and any sign of it will provide more proof towards this theory.

Picture: Supplied/Facebook CERN. Model of a diapole LHC

The upgrade will allow the machine to collect more data on more events which previously was not possible. UCT Physicist Thomas Dietel shared this with Business Insider, “But at the moment the experiment has had to reject about 95% of its events its detects”.

Being able to understand the mechanics of quark gluon plasma will allow physicists to analyse this particle more in-depth. There are many open ended questions surrounding this matter as indicated by Dietel in Business Insider, ”What are the properties of this piece of matter, how hot is it, how do particles move through it?”

The local organisations will supply the following parts, the readout and trigger system for the muon identified, the muon tracking chambers and the transition radiation detector. The muon can be understood as the second fundamental particle in the system aside from the electron and began the study of particle physics as mentioned in The Guardian. It is believed the the muon will help to understand fundamental interactions between particles.

UCT’s involvement in the development of the ALICE mechanism is a step forward in understanding the physical science behind the formation of Earth and the universe.

Picture: Twitter

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Ishani Chetty

Ishani is a cat lovin' vegetarian who is passionate about social issues, the environment and current affairs. Her current obsessions include; the handmaidens tale, island destination holidays and cats in bow ties. She has the ideal bank of gifs to use at any appropriate moment and collects hats.