Introduction to Particle Physics (Spring 2006, 171.731/171.408)

The course is suitable for advanced physics undergraduates and beginning graduate students interested in experimental high energy physics.

The textbook "Introduction to High Energy Physics" by Donald Perkins (4th edition, by Cambridge University Press, 2000) will serve as the main guide throughout the course. We will also use the online summary of elementary particle properties (available at as the most up-to-date and detailed reference material. Some basic knowledge of non-relativistic Quantum Mechanics, Theory of Relativity, and relevant mathematical techniques is required. However, the material will be presented in a phenomenological and empirical way with the emphasis on experimental aspects of the field. Other more advanced courses on particle physics are recommended for deeper studies of theoretical formalism.

See The Particle Adventure for the basic online introduction of the subject.

Lecture 1 (Jan 30, 2006): Introduction, see handouts.
Discuss Quantum and Relativistic Mechanics, Experimental approach, Energy and Size scale, Units, Connection to Cosmology.

Lecture 2 (Jan 31, 2006): Brief overview, see handouts:
History of the Universe
Review of relativistic kinematics and quantum mechanics with examples (pion decay, colliders, neutrino oscillations, spin statistics).

Lecture 3 (Feb.1, 2006): Spin and helicity. Leptons. Quarks. Hadrons: baryons.

Lecture 4 (Feb.6, 2006): Hadrons: mesons. Simplest "group theory" spin 1/2. Unstable particles, Breit-Wigner resonance, lifetime and width, conservation laws. Decay chain to stable particles.

Lecture 5 (Feb.7, 2006): Interactions: boson mediators. Feynman Diagrams, examples. Electromagnetic interactions (QED). Strong interactions (QCD).

Lecture 6 (Feb.8, 2006): Interactions: Weak. Example of pion decay and helicity. EW unification and Higgs particle. Speculations: pentaquarks and glueballs. "New Physics": supersymmetry.

Reminder: HW1 due next Monday on Feb.13, 2006.
Suggestion: Finish reading of the first two chapters of the textbook.

Lecture 7 (Feb.13, 2006): Alpha-, beta-, gamma-, cosmic-rays. Radioactive sources. Cosmic-ray particles. History: Thompson and Rutherford. Major discoveries of the 20th century.

Lecture 8 (Feb.14, 2006): Production of particles. Acceleration of particles. Technical issues of accelerators.

Lecture 9 (Feb.15, 2006): Examples of accelerator complexes. Luminosity and cross-section. e+e- cross-section as a function of energy.

Lecture 10 (Feb.21, 2006): Particle interaction with matter. Ionization energy loss.

Lecture 11 (Feb.22, 2006): Multiple scattering. Electron interactions. Photon interactions. Electro-magnetic shower. Nuclear interactions.

Reminder: HW2 due next Monday on Feb.27, 2006.
Suggestion: Read chapters 11.1-11.5 and Appendix B of the textbook.

Lecture 12 (Feb.27, 2006): Detectors of elementary particles. Position detectors: emulsion, cloud chamber, bubble chamber, spark chamber, streamer chamber, proportional chambers, drift chambers and time-projection chambers.

Lecture 13 (Feb.28, 2006): Detectors of elementary particles. Position detectors: silicon strip and pixel detectors. Momentum detectors: magnetic spectrometers. EM shower detectors.

Lecture 14 (Mar.1, 2006): Detectors of elementary particles. Scintillators. Hadronic calorimeters. Particle identification principles. Time-of-flight, dE/dx, Cherenkov light, Transition radiation. Examples of modern detectors.

Suggestion: Finish reading chapter 11, we will return to chapter 3 next week.

Lecture 15 (Mar.6, 2006): Fundamental symmetries and conservation laws: energy, momentum, angular momentum, charge. Other symmetries: P, C, CP, T, CPT. Baryon and lepton numbers. Sakharov conditions. Parity of mesons.

Lecture 16 (Mar.7, 2006): Parity of a complex system. Charge conjugate symmetry: mesons and other examples. P- and C-conservation in strong and EM decays. Flavor symmetry: isospin and SU(2) group.

Lecture 17 (Mar.8, 2006): Flavor symmetry: isospin SU(2), SU(3). G-parity. Examples of isospin symmetry in strong decays.

Reminder: HW3 due next Monday on Mar.13, 2006.
Reminder: Outline due next Wednesday on Mar.15, 2006.
Suggestion: Read chapter 3 of the textbook, we will move to chapter 4 next week.

Lecture 18 (Mar.13, 2006): Neutral Kaon mesons: CP violation and time-evolution.

Lecture 19 (Mar.14, 2006): Quarks in hadrons: analogy with the hydrogen atom and positronium. Quarkonium spectra.

Lecture 20 (Mar.15, 2006): Quarkonium potential, decays and production. Heavy flavor mesons. Light mesons and singlet-octet mixing.

Reminder: Next week is the Spring Break
Reminder: Next class on Mar.27, 2006 moved to noon-12:50, first-year graduate student seminar
Suggestion: Read chapters 3.13-3.14, chapter 4, and chapters 7.15-7.17 of the textbook.

Lecture 21 (Mar.27, 2006): moved to noon-12:50 first-year graduate student seminar
"Experimental Particles Physics: Search for the Origin of Mass and Matter"

Lecture 22 (Mar.28, 2006): Quarks in hadrons: baryons.

Lecture 23 (Mar.29, 2006): Baryon magnetic moment and mass. Proton structure.

Reminder: HW4 due next Monday on Apr.3, 2006.
Suggestion: Finish reading chapter 4 of the textbook. We will look at selected topics in chapters 5 and 6 next week.

Lecture 24 (Apr.3, 2006): Partons in hadrons: lepton-nucleon scattering. Hadron-hadron scattering. QCD potential at small distance.

Lecture 25 (Apr.4, 2006): QCD potential at large distance. Quark mass. Angular distribution in scattering. e+e- => mu+mu-, 2jets, 3jets, any hadrons.

Lecture 26 (Apr.5, 2006): Anomalous magnetic moment. Running coupling constants in QED and QCD. Gluonium. Quark-gluon plasma.

Reminder: We start presentations next Monday.
Suggestion: Finish reading chapters 5 and 6 of the textbook.

"Lecture 27" (Apr.10, 2006): Presentations

Lecture 28 (Apr.11, 2006): Weak interactions: Weak and EM currents, Dirac equation, types of operators, V-A theory, polarisation of fermions.

Lecture 29 (Apr.12, 2006): Observation of Parity violation. V-A operator. Propagator of a massive and massless boson. Fermi theory. Pion decay. Observation of W and Z.

Reminder: HW5 due next Monday on Apr.17, 2006.
Suggestion: Finish reading chapter 5 and 6 of the textbook. Start looking at chapter 7.

"Lecture 30" (Apr.17, 2006): Presentations

Lecture 31 (Apr.18, 2006): Weak interactions: Cabibbo angle, GIM mechanism, CKM quark-mixing matrix.

Lecture 32 (Apr.19, 2006): Constraints on CKM matrix, CP violation, direct-CP violation, loop and box diagrams.

Suggestion: Come to the Johns Hopkins Physics Fair on Saturday, April 22, 2006 at 12 noon until 5 to see a lot of illustrations, including live tracks in the cloud chamber.

"Lecture 33" (Apr.24, 2006): Presentations

Lecture 34 (Apr.25, 2006): Neutrino mixing and neutrino physics. Solar and atmospheric neutrino experiments.

Lecture 35 (Apr.26, 2006): Reactor neutrinos and neutrino beams, sterile and Majorana neutrinos. Largrangian of Electromagnetic interactions. QED and QCD Largrangian. Weak isospin and hypercharge current.

Reminder: HW6 due next Monday on May.1, 2006.
Suggestion: Finish reading chapter 7 of the textbook. Read chapters 9.6, 9.7. Start reading chapter 8, we will cover the rest of chapters 8 and 9 next week.

Lecture 36 (May 1, 2006): Largrangian of Electroweak interactions.

Lecture 37 (May 2, 2006): Spontaneous symmetry breaking and the Higgs mechanism.

Lecture 38 (May 3, 2006): Physics beyond the Standard Model.

Reminder: This is our last class

There are research opportunities available for June-August 2006 (with possibility to continue) for both graduate and undergraduate students. One would learn data analysis techniques at one of the modern elementary particle experiments. Some of the fundamental aspects of elementary particles will be studied and summarized in a research report by the end of the project. Contact the instructor if you are interested and want to learn more about this research assistantship opportunity.

Andrei Gritsan
Last update: Mon May 8 15:20:43 EDT 2006