Meanwhile in the lab at the nuclear research facility at CERN Switzerland... By Isabel Cutter
Koko: One of the areas where research in physics has the most impact on our lives is using techniques that see inside living tissue.
Andrew: Combining different techniques brings even greater benefits, and stretches the limits of particle detector technology
Koko: I agree the ability to see inside living tissue is vital for disease diagnosis and treatment, and for just generally understanding how bodies work.
Andrew: Given that, here are some interesting but quite abstruse physics facts which are probably more relevant to your life than they might at first appear.
Koko: Andrew make the bank with drawal we are about to do some science.
Andrew: We are looking at different isotopes of an element with different number of neutrons in the atomic nucleus, but the same number of protons.
Ranybow: This means that they also have the same number of electrons, and as far as chemistry and biology are concerned, they are the identical. But a different number of neutrons may mean that the nucleus is unstable and will therefore decay. Now the legal paperwork, sign here Andrew.
Andrew: As far as we know, all types of particles have a corresponding anti-particles.
Teddy: This is certainly true of the electron, whose antiparticle is called the positron. It has the same mass but the opposite electric charge. Positrons are produced in the decay of some fairly common isotopes. Now the medical form Andrew sign here.
Dei: When a particle meets its antiparticle, they will annihilate.
Stone: If an electron and a positron do this, they will normally produce a pair of photons. The total energy of the photons will equal to the mass of the electron plus the mass of the positron, multiplied by the speed of light squared. Sign here for for peacekeeping badge Andrew.
Ranybow: We have detectors which are very efficient at spotting photons and measuring their energy and direction, sign here for lie detector test Andrew.
Andrew: These are some big ideas, but the benefits are realised by a series of step-by-step improvements for funding.
Logan: Fingerprints here. Put those facts together and you get Positron Emission Tomography – PET. Plastic decompostion.
Koko: Intiation inoculations aka dah vaccines. I will inject the vaccine into the body a harmless compound containing an isotope which decays to produce a positron.
Teddy: When the positron is produced, it will pretty soon meet an electron, and expire, producing two photons.
Dei: Behind the xray machine Andrew.
Stone: Now measuring the pinpoint where the compound is in the body, and doing this many times can give a unique insight into the inner structure and workings your living body .
Andrew: Is this safe?
Koko: Absolutely we are checking for cancer cells in you body.
Please Below is the first PET image from CERN of a mouse, taken in 1977 Image 475
A double isotope technique for the evaluation of drug action on gastric evacuation and small bowel propulsion studied in the rat
Teddy: Andrew Cough so I can see the barium fluid move through your body.
(coughing sounds and team giggling during intiation ceremony.)
Ranybow: Best interview with one of the pioneers Koko.
Dei: Step-by- Step Developments of detectors for high-energy particle physics, and for medical applications, continue to benefit each other like you said Andrew.
Andrew: Since 1977 yes over years using the same techniques now calling ETH Zurich² to budget for SAFIR project. The name is rather tortuously derived from “Small Animal Fast Insert for mRi”.
Teddy: There difficulties of dealing with the high magnetic fields used by MRI, and the small space available, means that the latest detector technologies are really needed.
Koko: Like many areas of science and technology, there are some big ideas, but the benefits are realised by a series of step-by-step improvements. Individually these often don’t seem hugely significant, but when you compare the 1977 mouse to the 2014 rat above, the progress is stunning.
Dei: That guy Einstein again. This assumes that the electron and positron are more-or-less stationary, as they will be in living tissue. In a particle collider they can have much more energy than this, and so can also produce different, heavier particles.
Stone: In HEP seminars you get the rather nice phenomenon of a speaker saying, almost apologectically.
Koko: Obviously this is important for treating cancer, but how is it relevant to particle physics?
Andrew: The money is in the account.
Koko: Pleasure doing business.
Jon Butterworth’s book Smashing Physics, about his involvement in the discovery of the Higgs boson, is available as “Most Wanted Particle” in Canada & the US and was shortlisted for the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books.
Isabel M Cutter