World’s top physics instrumentation conference has opened in Cape Town

4th September 2023

By: Rebecca Campbell

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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The sixth iteration of the Technology and Instrumentation in Particle Physics (TIPP) conference was opened at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Monday. This is the first time that the TIPP conference has been held in Africa. (Perhaps oddly, this puts Africa on the same level as Europe, which has so far also hosted only one of the TIPP series, in 2014.)

TIPP is a mixture of a science and engineering conference, University of the Witwatersrand Physics Professor and iThemba LABS senior researcher Bruce Mellado explained. “Particle physics is interdisciplinary,” he highlighted. “We’re trying to do more and more difficult things.” To develop the complex instruments needed to implement the extremely advanced experiments that they wish to run, the scientists must work closely with a wide range of engineers.

The director of research for the CMS and RD51 experiments at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (far better known by its French acronym, CERN), Maksym Titov, pointed out that when particle physicists planned a new experiment, they often had to develop new technologies to make that experiment possible. Such technologies could only be developed once science funding agencies guaranteed the requisite funding. With the funding assured, the scientists could then go to industry, which would then develop the necessary technology. Industry would never develop the technology by itself, because of the cost and the very niche initial application for it.

Moreover, Titov noted, fundamental science was coupled with applied science, which was coupled with technology and innovation. Advanced technologies developed for advanced fundamental science experiments often had spin-off effects that benefitted wider society. Most famously, the world wide web was invented at CERN by Tim Berners-Lee to allow CERN scientists around the world to communicate and discuss data generated by their experiments. More recently, Gaseous Electron Multiplier technology, developed for use with the CMS experiment on the Large Hadron Collider, is now used in medical diagnostic technology.

Some 250 delegates, from all around the world, are attending TIPP2023. One of the reasons for holding it in Africa is to raise the profile of particle physics across the continent. Currently, South Africa is the only sub-Saharan country to have scientists integrated into CERN experimental research collaborations. The conference will run until Friday.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



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