Geneva, 4 December 2003. New Zealand's particle physicists have joined the world's most ambitious scientific undertaking with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between their government and CERN1. This agreement formalises the participation of New Zealand scientists in the laboratory's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) project.
The MoU, signed recently by New Zealand's Science Minister Pete Hodgson, will be signed by CERN today in Geneva in the presence of New Zealand's Ambassador to Switzerland, Peter Hamilton. It reinforces a relationship that New Zealand has been building with CERN for several years. CERN-New Zealand link person, Alick Macpherson, and his colleagues at the University of Auckland and the University of Canterbury, Christchurch are helping build the giant CMS particle detector, which will study high-energy proton-proton collisions at the LHC. Due to switch on in 2007, the LHC will take physicists on the next stage of a journey of discovery that started with Newton's description of gravity. Gravity acts on mass, but so far science has been unable to explain why fundamental particles of matter have the masses they have. Experiments at the LHC should provide an answer.
The LHC's experiments will also probe the mysterious missing mass and energy of the universe -- visible matter accounts for only 5% of what we know must exist. They will investigate the reason for nature's preference for matter over antimatter, and they will study matter as it existed during the first instants of the Universe.
The CERN-New Zealand MoU provides further possibilities for New Zealand's scientists to take part in CERN's world-leading programmes, including participation in formal CERN projects and related opportunities, such as the CERN Summer Student Programme, access to the CERN Scientific Associates Programme, and training visits within specific projects.
CERN Director General, Luciano Maiani, welcomed the formalisation of New Zealand's involvement with CERN, saying, "I am very pleased to welcome New Zealand to the CERN family, it is only fitting that the country that produced one of the fathers of modern physics, Earnest Rutherford, should be at the forefront of research in this field."
Helen Anderson, Acting Chief Executive at New Zealand's Ministry of Research, Science and Technology, said, "The MoU gives New Zealand's scientists a fantastic opportunity to participate in world-class particle physics research."
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