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JQI Podcast Episode 12

HAWC and the high-energy gamma rays

A view of the HAWC observatory in Mexico. (Credit: J. Goodman)

In our own galaxy and beyond, violent collisions fling a never-ending stream of stuff at the earth, and astrophysicists are eager to learn more about the processes that produce this cosmic barrage.

Researchers from around the world have teamed up to build the High-Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) gammy-ray observatory, an array of hundreds of huge water tanks on a mountain in Mexico. HAWC helps astrophysicists spot active cosmic neighborhoods by capturing the shower of particles created when high-energy packets of light smash into the earth’s atmosphere.

Jordan Goodman, HAWC’s lead investigator, and Dan Fiorino, a postdoctoral researcher at UMD, tell Chris Cesare about the details of the HAWC experiment and how it promises to fill some gaps in our understanding of the universe. To learn more about HAWC, please visit The collaboration is preparing to publish the first results of its search, and you can read about the details in an upcoming source catalog or a paper about high-energy gamma rays from the Crab Nebula.

This episode of Relatively Certain was produced by Chris Cesare, Sean Kelley and Emily Edwards and edited by Chris Cesare and Kate Delossantos, featuring music by Dave Depper, Podington Bear, Kevin MacLeod and Chris Zabriskie. Relatively Certain is a production of the Joint Quantum Institute and the University of Maryland, and you can find it on iTunes, Google Play or Soundcloud.

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Trey Porto, a NIST physicist and Fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute, spends his days using atoms and lasers to study quantum physics. But even outside

A little more than a hundred years ago, Albert Einstein worked out a consequence of his new theory of gravity: Much like waves traveling through water, ripples can undulate through space and time, distorting the fabric of the universe itself. 

More than 300 feet underground, looping underneath both France and Switzerland on the outskirts of Geneva, a 16-mile-long ring called the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) smashes protons together at nearly the speed of light. Sifting through the wreckage, scientists have made some profound discoveries about the fundamental nature of our universe.

But what if all that chaos underground is shrouding subtle hints of new physics? David Curtin, a postdoctoral researcher at the Maryland Center for Fundamental Physics here at UMD, has an idea for a detector that could be built at the surface—far away from the noise and shrapnel of the main LHC experiments. The project, which he and his collaborators call MATHUSLA, may resolve some of the mysteries that are lingering behind our best theories.

This episode of Relatively Certain was produced by Chris Cesare, Emily Edwards, Sean Kelley and Kate Delossantos. It features music by Dave Depper, Podington Bear, Broke for Free, Chris Zabriskie and the LHCsound project. Relatively Certain is a production of the Joint Quantum Institute, a research partnership between the University of Maryland and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and you can find it on iTunes, Google Play or Soundcloud.