Many leading physicists might just as easily be described as hunters. UC Irvine scientists were part of an international cast of thousands hunting for the Higgs boson, the last exotic beast to be captured for the modern physicist’s particle menagerie. Evidence of the Higgs boson, itself evidence of the all-important Higgs field, which gives particles their mass, was picked up by detectors in the Large Hadron Collider on the Swiss-French border in 2012.
UCI physicists also hunt an equally strange particle called the neutrino in the forbidding cold and ice of Antarctica. Forbidding, yet inviting: By peering through deep Antarctic ice, detector arrays such as IceCube can record tell-tale flashes of blue light that are signs of neutrinos, so ghostly they barely interact with matter at all – except those rare moments when, in their streaming trillions, one of them bumps into an atom in the ice. Untouched by dust or radiation, neutrinos flowing constantly through the Earth, and our bodies, might bear secrets from the beginning of time.
Other UCI physicists hunt high-energy cosmic rays; one professor will use smartphones around the world just for that purpose.