How does the Japanese particle work

01.12.1998 10:28

In search of the smallest particles

Dr. Elisabeth Zuber-Knost Press and communication
University of Karlsruhe (TH) - research university, founded in 1825

No. 132 / December 2, 1998 / mea

In search of the smallest particles
German-Japanese cooperation established

Quarks and leptons are considered to be the basic elements of matter today. All forces occurring in nature can be traced back to interactions between these building blocks; they are described in the so-called standard model of elementary particle physics. However, many questions are still unanswered. The Institute for Theoretical Particle Physics deals with some of them. Together with the Japanese Research Center for High Energy Physics (KEK), the institute has now initiated a binational research project entitled "Heavy quarks and leptons at future elementary particle accelerators" in the city of Tsukuba. Tsukuba University and Tohoku University are also involved. This type of collaboration is unique in particle physics. The project is supported on a large scale by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), the Japanese analogue of the DFG.

The standard model of elementary particle physics, for example, leaves open the question of the origin of masses. According to the model, the masses are generated through an interaction with a so-called "Higgs particle", which, however, has so far eluded observation. The mechanism of mass production must therefore be regarded as not understood. Another puzzle that could also be related to the "Higgs particle" is the phenomenon of so-called quark mixing, the transition between different quarks with the same charge. These processes are only parameterized in the standard model.

The collaboration between the Karlsruhe particle physicists and their Japanese colleagues is closely oriented towards future major projects in experimental particle physics. Both in Japan and in Germany, plans are being discussed for a particle accelerator that would allow the building blocks of matter to be investigated at distances that were previously unattainable. The data obtained there could be used to clarify fundamental questions that are still open. In addition, an accelerator facility will go into operation at KEK in Japan next year, which will precisely examine the mixture of quarks. Theoretical studies for the reactions measured here are also carried out in Karlsruhe. In connection with this, fellows from Japan sponsored by the Humboldt Foundation have already come to Karlsruhe, and more scientists are expected. The exchange laid the basis for the now institutionalized cooperation.

The evaluation of the experimental results and their theoretical interpretation represent a challenge for particle physicists. Therefore, such projects as the now intensified German-Japanese cooperation are indispensable. From the Karlsruhe side, the project is linked to two other institutions that are funded by the DFG. On the one hand, there is a graduate college at the University of Karlsruhe with the title "Elementary Particle Physics at Accelerators", so that the training of doctoral students will also benefit from the new collaboration. On the other hand, Karlsruhe Theoretical Particle Physics is funded by a DFG research group, which is concerned with the further development of theoretical methods, in particular with the use of computers. This creates an active environment in which important progress can be made in clarifying fundamental questions about the structure of matter.

Contact person: Prof. Dr. Thomas Mannel
Tel: (07 21) 6 08-61 28
Prof. Dr. Johann Kühn
Tel .: (07 21) 6 08-22 72

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Features of this press release:
Mathematics, physics / astronomy
Research projects