Essay 1: The LHC and the Higgs Boson (10%)

Due date: Jan.30 @2:10PM.

Please note: the following description may look long at first, but don't panic! I have deliberately designed it like a FAQ, so that it is straightforward for you to figure out what I expect. Just take a deep breath, read the instructions carefully all the way through to the bottom, and then ask me if you have any remaining questions.

Topic: the LHC and the Higgs

Answer the following questions:-

  1. What is the LHC, and why would anyone care? (50%)
  2. What is the Higgs boson? Discuss its recent discovery. (40%)
  3. What do particle physicists hope to see at the LHC in future? (10%)

Note: before you start, you may wish read my Essay Grading Rubric. Essentially, I grade for two things: physics accuracy, and how well you explain things (pedagogy).


Stylistically, please write this essay conversationally - as if you are verbally explaining this stuff to your favourite artsy cousin who knows little or nothing about science. Use the first person and the active voice. Don't forget to use paragraphs properly.

Length, format, etc.

Please write 1500 words of content, not counting references. List your references at the end, after your essay text. Pictures, diagrams, or sketches are permitted but should be used sparingly. Please submit your assignment in Rich Text Format (.rtf). For formatting, I prefer it to be single spaced, on US letter-size (8.5 x 11 inch) paper, with 1-inch margins, in a plain font (e.g. Arial or Verdana) of size 12pt, in black colour. I do not mind which system of formatting references you use, but I do ask that you do it consistently. Please do not bother with a separate title page; just write your student name and number in the top line of page 1 of your essay.

Useful Resources

Your primary source of information for our course is my Lecture Notes, which I make available here on this web site. One accessible book which you may find helpful is Elegant Universe by Brian Greene. Another accessible book discussing our course material is Universe on a T-shirt by Dan Falk, which is available in the Library.

Please note: in general, Wikipedia is not an acceptable academic reference in this course. There are two excellent intellectual reasons for this. First, Wikipedia's accuracy is best on topics that are understood by many people in enough detail for the crowdsourced article to be authoritative, and theoretical physics typically falls outside this category. Second, the level of technicality of Wikipedia articles is usually mismatched to our needs. For example, the article on black holes is pitched to a more expert audience than our class, so it is frustrating to try to learn from. You may of course use Wikipedia as a mechanism of finding reputable pedagogical sources, such as books written for laypeople by physics or astronomy professors or by CERN or NASA scientists.

Reputable, understandable sources of online information about the LHC include:

Handing In

Essays must be handed in before the deadline electronically, with your name and student number included, sent to the prof by e-mail from your official UTmail+ account. You must include both your essay .rtf file and your signed scanned Academic Integrity declaration form as described below in the Academic Integrity section. If you do not own a scanner, just take a good-quality picture of your completed form and submit that instead.

Document Format

The only electronic document format I encourage you to use is: Rich Text Format (.rtf). Note: LibreOffice is a great alternative to Word for editing .rtf files; it works on Mac Windows and Linux and costs $0. You can easily export a Microsoft Word file to .rtf format, and if you use Word to prepare your essay you should do this before submitting it to me. If you prefer to submit a .pdf file, that is also acceptable.

The filename for the attachment you submit to me by email must include your name and our course code PMU199S. Please use a filename like pmu199s-essay1-firstname-lastname.rtf.

Academic Integrity

Compliance with all UofT academic integrity guidelines is, of course, compulsory. For clarification of what is expected of UofT students, please carefully study the handouts on Academic Integrity (the Writing handouts will also be useful). For example, do remember to properly quote and reference all sources you use, and don't cut-and-paste content from the internet. Please read How Not To Plagiarize.

Essays will be run through the University's system for detecting cheating in essays. All this does is checks whether you have lifted paragraphs or phrases straight from common sources without referencing properly. If you don't cheat and do use good citation hygiene, you have absolutely nothing to worry about. Please follow the instructions at on how to register. Our class ID and password are given out in class -- they will not be provided on this website for security reasons. If you would prefer not to participate with Turnitin, you must provide alternative evidence that your essay is your own work. You must discuss this with me in person; I require proof of at least two rough drafts along with the finished essay.

You are also required to print, fill in, and sign the Essay Checklist. This is compulsory.