MSUToday
Published: Sept. 22, 2011

Faculty conversations: Reinhard Schwienhorst

Contact(s): Erica Shekell Office of Communications and Brand Strategy erica.shekell@cabs.msu.edu

Halfway across the world on the border of France and Switzerland, scientists are studying what happened early in the Big Bang. Back on MSU’s campus, Reinhard Schwienhorst is helping process the enormous amount of data being generated when opposing particle beams collide at high speeds.

The purpose of the globally collaborative project is to break particles down into never-before-seen dark matter and Higgs particles to better understand the universe.

Schwienhorst is helping others understand the work being done at the Large Hadron Collider through his role as the executive producer of “Relics of the Big Bang,” a show premiering Oct. 7 at MSU’s Abrams Planetarium. The LHC is the world’s most powerful particle accelerator and is located at the European Centre for Nuclear Research, or CERN, as it is known by its French acronym.

“It is about astronomy and the Big Bang on one side, but also about what we’re specifically doing here at MSU to understand the Big Bang a little bit better,” said Schwienhorst, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The show, which was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, was produced by MSU students, faculty and alumni in collaboration with the Abrams Planetarium.

A number of the student animators from MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences had the rare opportunity to visit the LHC last year to better understand the magnitude of the project.

“I think that’s really helped them to understand what’s going on and the magnitude of the project, the details of the project and how physicists work,” Schwienhorst said.

More than 30 people at MSU are involved in the ATLAS experiment, which is one of six detector experiments that take place in the collider, which is contained in a 17-mile circular tunnel. The researchers helped build the detector — which is six stories tall — and now monitor and collect the data coming in. MSU students and researchers are using large computer clusters to analyze this data.

“We really hope that we can identify something — maybe the Higgs particle, maybe something unexpected, I don’t know — in the next two or three years, and when that happens, because of our show, people will be prepared and will understand,” Schwienhorst said.

The show premieres Oct. 7 at 8 p.m. and will air regularly at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 4 p.m. on Sundays for the rest of the semester.

Tickets are $3 for adults, $2.50 for senior citizens, and $2 for children aged 12 and younger.

Reinhard Schwienhorst, assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, talks about “Relics of the Big Bang,” an upcoming show at Abrams Planetarium about MSU’s role in a global effort to unlock the mysteries of the universe.

Reinhard Schwienhorst, assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, talks about “Relics of the Big Bang,” an upcoming show at Abrams Planetarium about MSU’s role in a global effort to unlock the mysteries of the universe.

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