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Edgar Carrera | USLHC | USA

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Beatiful Prague, Al, and Quantum Gravity at the LHC

einstein-plaque1

One of the advantages of being an experimental particle physicist is that we somehow enjoy certain flexibility in our work schedule.   It is not unusual at all to work very long hours even during weekends for extended periods of time (graduate students can tell you all about it), or to literally run on coffee (or anything that has caffeine) because you haven’t slept more than a few hours in a few days. But once in a while, if you are lucky enough to have had cool supervisors like I have, it is possible to escape for an extended weekend without feeling too much guilt.

I did so last weekend, I went to the Czech Republic to attend the wedding of one of my best friends.  While celebrating in the beautiful countryside, where the wedding took place, and after a couple of  Meruňkovice shots, we started planning our two-day visit to Prague.  Being Czech and a very good particle physicist,  my friend knew something that I was not aware of.  He told me that Albert Einstein had taught in the German University in Prague.  In fact, he later showed me a memorial plaque outside a house in Prague’s Old Town Square that reads: “Here in this salon of Mrs Berta Fanta, Albert Einstein, Professor at Prague University in 1911 to 1912, founder of the theory of relativity, Nobel Prize Winner, played the violin and met his friends, famous writers, Max Brod and Franz Kafka.”

At any modern particle collider, where gravity effects are negligible, special relativity is the pain quotidien.  However, at the LHC, there are many theories that predict scenarios where gravitational effects are important, in which case we would be able to learn more about the old mystery of  how to reconcile vastly tested Einstein’s general relativity with quantum mechanics.  Most of these scenarios (string-theory inspired) involve the presence of more than two additional space dimensions in our Universe, not large enough to solve the sock in the dryer mystery, but rather tiny, on the order of a millionth of a meter or smaller.   The leakage of the gravitational field in the extra volume could justify gravity’s marked weakness compared to the rest of the forces in Nature.  At the CMS experiment we are preparing to test such scenarios among other interesting physics.

In Prague, good old Al found – in his own words – “the necessary composure to give the basic thought of the general theory of relativity (1908) step by step a more definite shape…” , and I can certainly understand why now.  Not that I will ever experience the enlightenment Einstein found there, but after visiting beautiful Prague and enjoying the warmth of its wonderful people and its exciting culture, I feel energized, very energized, ready to continue our extraordinary adventure at the LHC, maybe a quantum-gravitational one!

Edgar F. Carrera (Boston University)

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