Philosophical Society of Washington

The Problem of Mass

Jonathan A. Bagger
Johns Hopkins University

2105th Meeting Abstract
Friday, April 23, 1999 at 8:15 PM


Particle physicists have probed deeper and deeper into the heart of matter. During the past fifty years, they have moved from atoms and nuclei to protons and neutrons to quarks and leptons. In the process, they have discovered what are believed to be the fundamental building blocks of the Universe. At the close of the twentieth century, physicists have a quantitative understanding of the structure of matter to about 10-16 cm. This is a remarkable achievement, likely to be regarded among the most important advances of the past hundred years. This success does not represent an end, but rather a new beginning. It points the way to an even deeper understanding of our Universe, to the origin of mass itself. Indeed, the present theory breaks down when particles are collided at energies ten times higher than can be reached today. These energies will be achieved at CERN's Large Hadron Collider, scheduled to begin operation in 2005. This simple fact means that the CERN LHC is certain to discover new physics, beyond anything known today. What it will be, we do not know. All we know for sure is that we are on the verge of uncovering the microphysical origin of mass.

About the Author:

Jonathan Bagger is Professor of Physics and Mathematics at the Johns Hopkins University. He received his doctorate in 1983 from Princeton. Since then he has held appointments at Stanford, Harvard, and the Institute for Advanced Study. He has served as a consultant on particle physics to the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy. He is presently a member of the Fermilab Board of Overseers, as well as an editor of the Physical Review, Physics Reports and the Journal of High Energy Physics. Bagger's research interests lie in the area of particle physics at the interface between theory and experiment. He has authored four books and approximately 100 articles, including the monograph Supersymmetry and Supergravity.

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