Welsh AMs find out why funding antimatter research matters at CERN visit

Welsh politicians were given a unique insight into the work of the largest particle physics laboratory in the world when they were shown around CERN, by a Swansea University academic, as part of the facility’s annual ‘all comers’ political visit.

Assembly Members visit CERN

Assembly members Susie Davies, Huw Irranca-Davies and Llyr Gruffydd were joined by Scottish MP Patrick Grady as they were given a tour of the facility by Swansea physicist Professor Niels Madsen.

The visit showcased the work of the UK research councils, including the antimatter research funded by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)  with a particular emphasis on researchers from Wales, and Swansea in particular.

During the visit which included tour of the Antimatter Factory and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) tunnel, the politicians heard from Professor Madsen who outlined current antimatter research, which is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Physicists from Swansea University’s Physics Department are heavily involved in antimatter research, which aims to solve one of the greatest mysteries of physics – what happened to antimatter following the Big Bang?

The Swansea researchers have recently made the news for their work published in Nature for making precise measurements of antimatter properties.

Professor Niels Madsen, who also recently published discussed the research in The Conversation explained why the visit and public funding was so important to the project.

He said: “Funding research publicly traditionally allows for a much longer perspective on the order of decades and more - significantly more than privately funded research can sustain. This allows us to dig deeper and find truly new things, like Columbus rediscovering the Americas by “accident”.

“Fundamental research is concerned not with solving everyday problems that have already been identified, but with finding out what makes the world “tick” - and thereby finding answers to problems that we didn’t even know we had, or opening new opportunities that we could never have dreamed of.

“Nobody foresaw the discovery of quantum mechanics, or funded research to “go find quantum mechanics” but understanding it has first of all made us realise that the Universe is far more bizarre than we could have imagined, and secondly has been the underlying driving force in almost all aspects of modern technological life, from computers to meta-materials and surgery.”