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Scientific Interest Group: The physics of the infinitely large and the infinitely small

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Scientific Interest Group: The physics of the infinitely large and the infinitely small

The Scientific Interest Group ‘The physics of the two infinities’ (P2i) brings together a range of expertise in the fields of the physics of the infinitely large and the infinitely small.

The objective of P2i is to maintain the competitiveness of French teams at the international level. For this regional centre with a global perspective, this involves developing a new synergy between the laboratories concerned in Île-de-France.

Understanding the origins of the universe in order to grasp its evolution

For a long time, man has been searching for the answers to the most fundamental questions on the origin and evolution of the universe. What is it made of? What are the fundamental laws that govern it? What will it be in the future? This quest at the frontiers of knowledge and technology requires the most full investigation of the phenomena occurring on the level of the infinitely small (the world of elementary particles and quantum mechanics) and the level of the infinitely large (the world of cosmology and general relativity). Fascinating fields that closely overlap, these two cutting-edge areas of physics are the object of interest of the Scientific Interest Group ‘The physics of the two infinities’ (P2i).

Made official on 30 March 2007, the creation of P2i marks a new stage in this investigation and in the consolidation of research structures in France, directly inspired by the ‘Pact for Research’ (1). Acquiring international renown, making the reinforced coordination of programmes possible and increasing dynamism as well as resources for the programmes of teams working in subatomic physics and cosmology in the region of Île-de-France (2) are the objectives of ‘The physics of the two infinities’. The Scientific Interest Group brings together 19 laboratories which depend on the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), Pierre and Marie Curie, Paris Diderot and Paris-Sud 11 universities, the École Polytechnique and the Paris Observatory. It intends to be a regional research centre with a global perspective in these fields.

Grey matter for black matter

Within P2i, particle physicists, nuclear physicists, theoreticians and astrophysicists pool together the equipment that the seven partners possess. They will also share their skills in order to tackle the formidable scientific challenges posed by nature such as, for example, the exploration of black matter and energy, which together form over 95 % of the energy density of the universe and which is today still not fully understood.

Thanks to an annual budget of around 2 million Euros provided by the Ministry of Research and the seven partners (3), the group will be able to initiate new research and development projects as well as many programmes such as the organisation of scientific activities, hosting internationally renowned physicists and young PhD students.