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Aspen Public Radio is proud to present select lectures, discussions, and conversations from area events and festivals, thanks to a remarkable collection of community partners. Click here to view the full archive. Events are recorded at no cost to the partner and archived here online; select recordings are broadcast on Aspen Public Radio Sunday nights at 7 p.m.

Aspen Center for Physics: Unearthing New Theories Effectively with Sophie Renner

This event was recorded on August 10, 2022 at Aspen Center for Physics during the 2022 Heinz R. Pagels Physics Talks, in partnership with Aspen Public Radio

The Standard Model of particle physics is an extremely successful theory of fundamental particles, explaining a dizzying array of phenomena and measurements. Perhaps its most striking achievement was the prediction of the Higgs boson, whose existence and properties measured at CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) fit perfectly into the Standard Model’s picture.

But at the same time, there are some aspects of our universe that the theory completely fails to explain, notably the presence of dark matter in galaxies, and why the three tiny neutrinos morph into each other as they travel. How can these successes and failures coexist without contradiction, and how can we use them to our advantage in the search for something more?

In this talk, Sophie Renner explains how we know what we know as physicists, and how we quantify and narrow in on what we don’t. “Effective Field Theories” provide the mathematical formalism behind the intuitive notion that we don’t always need the tiniest details to see the big picture. And conversely, that tiny disagreements from expectations can herald a new paradigm. She describes how physicists are using Effective Field Theories to interpret LHC measurements, stress-test the Standard Model, and uncover clues towards the next big discovery.


Sophie Renner is a theoretical particle physicist, originally from London. She completed her PhD at the University of Cambridge in 2016, and undertook postdoctoral research in Mainz, Trieste and CERN.

She is now a UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Stephen Hawking fellow and lecturer at the University of Glasgow. Her research focus is on methods for discovering new particles and interactions, using data from CERN’s Large Hadron Collider and other experiments.