Abstract Illustration of Dark Matter, Lynette Cook

Abstract Illustration of Dark Matter, Lynette Cook


Sometimes, physics can seem quite abstract and inaccessible – a quick peek at google images shows countless iconoclasts scribbling archaic symbols on old-fashioned chalkboards. This stereotype sometimes discourages people from seeing the wonders and possibilities that physics reveals. Physicists dare to ask the most essential questions at both the biggest and smallest scales imaginable, questions that in the not-so-distant past were the domain of theologians.

Where did we come from and where are we going?

How was the universe formed and what is it made of? How do “things not seen” inform our reality? Will the recently discovered Higgs boson particle (aka God’s particle) be the key to affirming long held beliefs or the thing that shatters it?

This research takes place at both ends of the spectrum, from the subatomic to the galactic.



On the macro level, for instance, 85% of the universe has gravitation but is basically invisible – dark matter and dark energy. One way of understanding dark matter is to search for the gamma rays it emits. Jan Conrad, Professor of Astroparticle Physics, describes how the Fermi satellite is used in these investigations.



On the micro level, Associate Professor Sara Strandberg hopes to reveal the smallest building blocks and most fundamental forces of the universe. She uses the ATLAS detector at CERN, which records what happens when streams of protons collide. 


"The big discoveries of today might become the big innovations of tomorrow"

Both Strandberg and Conrad address the links between “basic” research and real-world technology. The modern concept of the photon, developed in the early 1900s by Albert Einstein, among many others, was a major breakthrough without a clear practical application. This curiosity developed into the field of quantum mechanics and then to quantum computing, one of the most promising fields of the IT revolution.

Stockholm University’s profile area, “Astrophysics, Cosmology and Particle Physics,” focuses on fundamental research. It is hosted at Fysikum and the Oskar Klein Centre for Cosmoparticle Physics (OKC), funded by the Swedish Research Council and hosting researchers from Stockholm University, KTH, and all over the world. Since its founding in 2008, it has become a world-class research centre with an impressive international impact.