8 December 2010

Kim Splittorff receives millions from the Research Council

Kim Splittorff, Associate Professor at the Niels Bohr Institute, has received a grant of 8½ million kroner from the Danish Council for Independent Research’s research career programme, Sapere Aude, which means "dare to think for yourself". It is this daring and independent thinking that characterizes the most talented researchers and the grant will provide the research elite the best opportunities for making groundbreaking research.

As for Kim Splittorff, he is researching nothing less than the unsolved mysteries of the Universe. He is theoretical physicist and is trying to calculate how the early Universe looked 13.7 billion years ago and which physical states prevailed. Experimental physicists are trying to recreate this state of the primordial Universe using nuclear collisions in the particle accelerator at CERN and in this way solve the mysteries of physics. 

"By combining theoretical and experimental efforts we can obtain important insights and get new groundbreaking results", explains Kim Splittorff. He researches symmetries and has a focus on how nuclear matter behaves when there is an imbalance between quarks and anti-quarks. In the moments after the Big Bang the Universe was dominated by a cocktail or primordial soup consisting of free quarks and gluons. However, this cocktail quickly took on a very different character. The quarks and gluons combined to form the tightly bound particles that dominate our Universe today. It is these particles that are the building blocks of atoms and matter.

Hidden properties

But as the quarks and gluons were tightly bound together into particles, their physical properties were hidden. At CERN they are using enormous energy to smash the atomic nuclei into each other to try to break them up into their fundamental elementary particles and study them in large detectors. This also requires the utmost of the researchers theoretically to calculate the properties of the quarks and to understand their physics.


The figure shows how a density oscillates when
there is
an unbalance between quarks and anti-
This means that it is difficult to make
theoretical calculations of the primordial soup of
quarks and
gluons. So to understand the phases of
dense nuclear matter, it is important to
be able to
control the extreme oscillations in computer

"My research has revealed a tight bond between the strong nuclear force symmetries and the problem that prevents direct calculations. The research project will use this important new insight to design and explore new theoretical tools and thus enabling a more direct comparison between physical experiments and theoretical calculations", explains Kim Splittorff.

The grant of 8½ million kroner over 4 years will be used to create a research group, including the hiring of two researchers for post.doc. positions.

A total of 31 researchers from across the country and all research fields have received the Danish Council for Independent Research’s Sapere Aude research grant. All grant recipients will be honoured at the EliteForsk conference to be held on the 27th of January 2011.

Sapere Aude
Sapere (stress on the first syllable) means to think, understand and reflect. Independent use of reason is emphasised. Aude means to dare or have courage. A direct translation might be ‘dare to think for yourself’ or ‘dare the free thought’. This is what Kant wants to say in the text passage which made the words famous as a slogan for the Age of Enlightenment.