Feeds

My dad found the Higgs boson! Reminiscences of a CERN kid

Hold it buddy - US atom bureau pass, but born in Iran?

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

SANS - Survey on application security programs

When your Dad’s a bus driver or a bank manager life must be simple. Bring-your-kids-to-work day involves things like garages and spreadsheets: when I was little it meant trying not to step in front of a particle beam.

As a child I attended the playgroup at CERN while my older sister was enrolled at their international school while my dad, Robert 'Bob' Orr, was CERN Fellow and Staff Physicist at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (1976-1981).

Living across the border from CERN in the Jura Mountains made for an idyllic childhood but I always sensed my dad was a man with a mission "to understand what lies beyond our present ideas on the most fundamental structure of matter" - to answer the question:

"What is the Universe made of?"

The kitchen table used to be covered in massive detector prints like giant X-rays that he pored over with a magnifying glass, peering at beautifully curved and complex particle collisions. These have now been replaced by computer models which don’t quite give the same feeling that you are staring into the abyss of the universe and back in time to, well ... the beginning of EVERYTHING.

Robert Orr Higgs boson

But why does this guy with the atomic security pass and the Scotch accent have "Iran" listed as his birthplace? Huh?

My grandfather had worked as an engineer and ship builder in the oil refineries of Persia, and my father was born there. The family was briskly kicked out when the Shah was deposed and Persia became the Islamic Republic of Iran.

I remember my father’s birthplace always dumfounding passport control when we visited the States. They found it impossible to fathom how my dad could hold an access all areas Atomic Energy Commission keycard while being born in a terrorist hotspot. I think it was my dad's thick Scottish brogue that convinced them he wasn't working on a dirty bomb.

After a spell at Dumbarton, the paternal ancestral home, it wasn’t long until my grandfather decided to relocate to the steel and chemical refineries of Port Talbot. My father's interest in physics was ignited by being surrounded as a child by engineers and the need to know how to take things apart and put them back together again – something he has ultimately applied to the very building blocks of the universe.

Here, the young Robert Orr had a lucky escape from the life of physical drudgery his own father knew, especially considering he is now a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (2009). Sure, he worked in the steelworks during the summer holidays to pay for model planes and his interest in photography, but he was also busy teaching himself physics to A-level standard, because the school didn’t have a physics teacher.

In the years that followed, he obtained a scholarship to Imperial College in London, where he completed his PhD: Observations of New Particle Production by High Energy Neutrinos and Anti-Neutrinos.

I remember long drives down to Port Talbot to visit my gran and asking my dad what he did for a living and him trying to explain to a seven-year-old his life's calling to resolve the problems of the Standard Model by finding the Higgs Boson. Back then, my dad was one of just a few scientists on the hunt but ultimately thousands of boffins and engineers became involved, at CERN and at universities and data centres around the world.

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.