Where Does Mass Come From?


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W particle produced in a collision in the ATLAS experiment, triggered by Weizmann-made detectors (red lines). Image: the ATLAS Experiment at CERN

Understanding how particles – say, electrons – get their mass is a challenge for physicists. The Standard Model says that all fundamental particles – for instance, the electron or the “W” and “Z” particles that carry the electroweak force – owe their mass to another particle called the “Higgs boson.” Only, no such particle has yet been discovered in any experiment. Another mystery: Most of the mass in the Universe comes, not from the particles we know about, but from some strange, invisible material that has been dubbed “dark matter.”

Scientists in the Institute’s Faculty of Physics are key players in the global effort to solve the riddle of the source of mass. Prof. Ehud Duchovni participated in the experiments in which the W and Z particles were discovered. He and others have now joined in the search for the Higgs boson in the gigantic LHC particle accelerator at CERN. Prof. Giora Mikenberg, who heads the Israeli research team at CERN, developed, together with his team at the Institute, a unique particle detector that is now installed in the LHC. This detector is specially tuned to find evidence that Higgs bosons have been created in the experiments. Prof. Eilam Gross is responsible for the statistical methods used to interpret the data collected in the ATLAS research station.

Dr. Gilad Perez investigates the possibility that our universe has extra dimensions, and suggests ways to find them through the LHC experiments. The existence of such extra dimensions might solve the riddle of mass in the Universe. Prof. Yosef Nir researches the “family tree” of mass through three “generations” of quarks with different masses. He also works on the theory of supersymmetry, which explains, among other things, the existence and unique properties of the Higgs particle, as well as the source of dark matter.
(l-r) Dr. Gilad Perez, Profs. Ehud Duchovni, Yosef Nir, Eilam Gross and Giora Mikenberg


Prof. Eilam Gross’s research is supported by the Rosa and Emilio Segre Research Award.

Prof. Giora Mikenberg is Head of the Nella and Leon Benoziyo Center for High Energy Physics; his research is supported by the Rosa and Emilio Segre Research Award. Prof. Mikenberg is the incumbent of the Lady Davis Chair of Experimental Physics.

Prof. Yosef Nir is Head of the Center for Experimental Physics. Prof. Nir is the incumbent of the Amos de-Shalit Chair of Theoretical Physics.

Dr. Gilad Perez’s research is supported by the Peter and Patricia Gruber Award. Dr. Perez is the incumbent of the Shlomo and Michla Tomarin Career Development Chair.