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The University of Sussex

 07 May 2002 

Big bucks for Big Bang scientists

A £1.7 million science laboratory for studying one of the great mysteries of the Universe opens at the University of Sussex on May 14, 2002.

The Centre for the Measurement of Particle Electric Dipole Moments has been equipped with the very latest technology to help scientists discover what happened in the aftermath of the 'Big Bang'.

Ed Hinds, professor of experimental physics and director of the new centre, says: "This is a unique and very exciting project. We hope eventually to find out what happened between 'matter' and 'anti-matter' when the Universe was created."

The question that has vexed scientists and astronomers for decades is why there is more matter in the Universe than anti-matter. Both were formed at the time of the Big Bang, which is predicted to have been about 15 billion years ago. For every particle formed, an anti-particle should also have been formed. Almost immediately, however, the equal numbers of particles and anti-particles would have annihilated each other, leaving nothing but light. The theory is that somehow - we do not know how - more particles must have been created than anti-particles, which is how the stars and planets came into existence.

Anti-matter now exists only at the sub-atomic level. Prof Hinds and his team therefore need high-powered microscopes and lasers for their study. The work involves looking at neutrons and electrons within atoms and measuring the distribution of their electric charge, or their "electric dipole moment".

"We haven't yet been able to see these dipole moments," says Prof Hinds, who has spent the past 20 years in this area of research. "But with advancing technology, we're now on the verge of a breakthrough."

Funding for the project has come from the Office of Science and Technology, overseen by the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC). The centre is to be opened by Alun Anderson, editor of the New Scientist and a Sussex alumnus.

 Notes for editors 

You are invited to send a reporter and/or photographer to the opening of the Centre for the Measurement of Particle Electric Dipole Moments on May 14. Photocall at 9.45am in the Bridge Café, Pevensey II.

For further information, please contact Alison Field or Peter Simmons, University of Sussex, Tel. 01273 678888, Fax 01273 877456, email or

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