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Experimental physics

Foot on the accelerator

Participation in future CERN experiments should improve the formation of Brazilian physicists and benefit industry

The funding authorized for the scientific undertaking of inserting Brazilian physicists into international experiments that will have the giant particle accelerator of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)  as a privileged locus “is a little less than half of that intended by the six research groups involved in the task”, captained by the respected professor, Roberto Salmeron, or that is to say, US$ 1 million per year over a five year period.

But certainly the total of approximately R$ 2.4 million conceded by the Financier of Studies and Projects (Finep) will be support of great importance to give speed and more density to the development of contemporary research into elementary particles in the country and, at the same time, secure the growth of national participation in the pledged investigation with the advance of this area of physics.

In more detail, what is in focus here are six experimental research projects and a theoretical project, “all marvelous proposals”, in the opinion of  Salmeron, whose continued funding  was fundamental in order to carry out Brazilian presence in experiments in the 27-kilometer extension particle accelerator, installed at Geneva, Switzerland, which will begin to operate at the end of 2007. The accelerator, which began to be planned at the end of the decade of the 1980s, is, for obvious reasons, the apple of eyes of the particle physics community. “Knowledge about the structural properties of materials, of the particles that make them up, should advance in an extraordinary manner with the enormous experiments in the accelerator”, comments the 84- year old Salmeron, who traveled a number of times from France to Brazil last year to help in the coordination of these projects and gave his presentation in defense of them in front of the development agencies. Retired from his activities at the Polytechnic School of Paris, Salmeron continues working steadily with consulting firms and in a special way for Brazil.

The groups involved in this project come from the State University of  Rio de Janeiro (Uerj), the Federal University of  Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), the Brazilian Physics Research Center (CBPF), the University of Sao Paulo (USP) and the São Paulo State University (Unesp). “The majority are really from Rio de Janeiro. These are very good groups of researchers, many of them having trained at the Fermilab and at CERN”, observes Salmeron.

The expectation of  the professor, who left Brazil during the decade of the 1960s as a direct consequence of persecution by the military dictatorship (see details in an excellent interview that he conceded to Pesquisa FAPESP, in issue No. 100), is that all of these projects have an impact on the formation of new physicists of an excellent level in Brazil. “With computer science, the progress in elementary particle physics has taken astronomical strides. For example, a new generation program called Grid has made immediate access to the data generated at the CERN possible, right from the moment at which two protons collide and the first secondary particles come out”, he related. This sharing of data in real time, in his vision, has a decisive influence on the advance of research.

Salmeron, who sees the post graduate courses in the areas of  physics, chemistry and engineering to be very good within the country, whilst undergraduate courses remain distant from the standard that they reach in developed countries, observed that for Brazil it is highly advantageous to enter into major scientific programs in an area in which all of the technology is vanguard. “This happens in the area of elementary particles, which signifies that even Brazilian industry itself can benefit directly from this new financing for research.”