The Discovery of the W and Z Particles

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Electromagnetism underpins the generation of electricity, holds electrons in atoms, and can bind these into molecules. It is relatively strong, and infinite in range. In contrast the weak force, which causes radioactive beta decay, and the fusion process in our Sun, is very feeble, and only acts over distances much smaller than a proton.

Theories developed in the 1960s and 1970s suggested that these two apparently fantastically difference forces were “unified”: they were aspects of the same interaction. The key prediction of the theories was that two particles, which had never been seen, should exist.

Peter Kalmus participated in an experiment at CERN which discovered these particles. He has won prizes and an OBE for this discovery, and for his outreach work in bringing physics to schools and the public.

Duration: 1 hr

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