The Width of the World
Written by Melissa Franklin
Human beings are compelled to measure everything, from the weight of a bag of tomatoes, to the size of the quarks inside atoms, to the width of the universe. In this year’s CBC Massey Lectures, leading experimental physicist Melissa Franklin explores how the human compulsion to measure pushes civilization forward.
First, she posits key questions: Why do we measure? What do we measure? How do we agree on what the measurements mean? What are the questions experimenters ask themselves? She then delves into the world of experimental physics — the scientific collaborations starting with the first artificial particle accelerator to the Large Hadron Collider at CERN — and its relationship to theoretical physics in the pursuit of a complete understanding of the physical world. Finally, she looks to the future of physics — from tabletop experiments to the many international collaborations to the possible next big collider in China to the crisis in funding research — and asks what questions remain.
A seminal work of science and storytelling, Melissa Franklin’s 2018 CBC Massey Lectures takes the reader on a provocative and compelling journey into the world of experimental physics and its impact on the modern world.
MELISSA FRANKLIN is the Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics at Harvard University. She is an experimental particle physicist who is studying proton collisions with the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider. She is a co-discoverer of the top quark and the Higgs boson. She works in a collaboration with more than three thousand physicists on ATLAS, where she studies properties of the vacuum, and searches for new particle interactions and new particles at the highest energies now available worldwide. In 1989 she joined the Harvard faculty, and in 1992 she became the first female tenured faculty member in the department of physics. Born and raised in Toronto, she now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.