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For students, teachers, and anyone who is interested in what we do

Some of the questions we are investigating are outlined below these interesting links:

We are searching for undiscovered principles, new symmetries, and new laws at the frontiers of nuclear and particle physics.

Fundamental Questions

The study of nature of matter is an inquiry into some of the most intriguing questions in physics. We have a theory, the Standard Model, that works really well for experiments we can perform, but there are many questions:

  • Are there undiscovered principles of nature?
  • What is beyond the Standard Model?
  • What are dark energy and dark matter?
  • Are there extra dimensions of space?
  • How did the universe come to be?

COSM explores these and related fundamental questions at the matter and energy frontier of physics.

Pie chart of the kinds of energy in the universe

95% of the universe is a complete mystery to us. We have some knowledge about stars, baryon matter, and neutrinos, but dark matter and dark energy are mysterious. They do not occur in the Standard Model.

How can we make a fundamental test of the Standard Model?

The PrimEx experiment at Jefferson Lab uses the Primakoff effect to make the most accurate determination to date of the lifetime of the neutral (uncharged) pion. The neutral pion is a simple particle in the Standard Model -- just two quarks -- so we ought to be able to calculate how long it should live. This experiment will see if the calculation is right.

Diagram of Primakoff effect

Is there strange matter in the Universe?

The Standard Model has normal quarks, which are quite low in mass, and 'strange' quarks that are a hundred times heavier (and are not normally present). In the Hypernuclear Kaon Spectroscopy (HKS) experiment at Jefferson Lab, strange nuclei are made by insertion of strange quarks into the atomic nucleus. Some Standard Model calculations predict that many strange quarks can bind together to make 'strange matter'; this matter could actually be present in some stars. Studying the production of hypernuclei will test these ideas.

Diagram of production of strange quark

Where do we find dark matter, extra dimensions, and supersymmetric particles?

Some theorists think that some problems with the Standard Model can be fixed if there are extra dimensions, or 'supersymmetric particles'. These ideas can also explain dark matter. We hope to find if any of these are correct in the ATLAS experiment at CERN. COSM is part of the team making the inner detector of ATLAS; it will be placed in the beamline of the Large Hadron Collider, the most powerful accelerator ever, in 2007.

Diagram of the ATLAS detector

How will we analyze all the data we will take and share it effectively?

COSM has a computer cluster that is part of the Open Science Grid (OSG), which will link many computers owned by universities and scientific labs worldwide, to analyze and store data. By linking all these computers (ten thousand and more) together, we can solve problems too tough for them separately. COSM is a Tier 3 OSG site.


How do we spread the benefits of our research?

COSM has a number of outreach and education efforts, including:

  • Outreach to the HBCU network
  • participation in QuarkNet
  • collaboration with education programs at Hampton University and Jefferson Lab
  • international physics outreach
  • a summer program for undergraduates.

COSM-QuarkNet teachers in Zambia


Are we alone?

No! COSM is a Physics Frontier Center that is based at Hampton University but spread through a network of historically black colleges and universities. Among our collaborators are:

  • North Carolina A&T State University
  • Norfolk State University
  • Howard University
  • Southern University


News & Events

World Year of Physics

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Copyright © 2005 Hampton University. All rights reserved.
Last updated Dec. 2005