The Epistemology of the
Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

DFG research unit with philosophers, physicists, historians and sociologists to launch its second phase

The German Research Foundation (DFG) has renewed a research unit that is based in Wuppertal University for three more years. The goal of this international research unit is to investigate the research at „the world’s largest research instrument“, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Organization for Nuclear Research CERN in Geneva, from a philosophical, historical and sociological perspective.


To this end, philosophers, physicists, historians of science and sociologists from seven universities have already collaborated closely for three years now. For an extension of this collaboration, the DFG and the FWF (Austrian Science Fund) have granted around 2.39 million Euros for the next three years. The research unit, going by the name “The Epistemology of the Large Hadron Collider", is the result of more than ten years of collaboration between the aforementioned humanities and physics on topics surrounding the LHC. At the LHC, particle physicists investigate the fundamental building blocks and forces of nature. In recent decades, a picture of this world has emerged from physicists’ efforts that matches almost all measurements exceedingly well. But these successes stand in contrast to many open questions. In particular, physicists puzzle over the question what a more encompassing and fundamental theory could look like. The DFG research unit investigates the basis on which such new theories are being developed and what novel principles of scientific development are used in the course of this.

Also the giant measuring facilities at the LHC, with their 10 000 working physicists and trillions of collected data-points, pose novel questions that the unit investigates, in particular: How can new knowledge be produced in such a complex environment? “The complex conditions of research in particle physics constitute a challenge for physics’ aim of an ever simpler and more encompassing description of nature. The collaboration between physics and the humanities”, as Prof. Dr. Gregor Schiemann from Wuppertal University puts the idea of the research unit in a nutshell, “makes new, hitherto unavailable insights into this field of research possible.

The research unit features experts from the philosophy, sociology, and history of science as well as physics based in Germany, Austria and the USA. Its six projects are led by Jun.-Prof. Dr. Radin Dardashti (Wuppertal University), Prof. Dr. Robert Harlander (RWTH Aachen University), Prof. Dr. Dr. Rafaela Hillerbrand (KIT Karlsruhe), Prof. Dr. Michael Krämer (RWTH Aachen University), Prof. Dr. Dennis Lehmkuhl (University of Bonn), Prof. Dr. Peter Mättig (University of Bonn), Prof. Dr. Martina Merz (AAU Klagenfurt), Prof. Dr. Gregor Schiemann (Wuppertal University), em. Prof. Dr. Erhard Scholz (Wuppertal University), Prof. Dr. Friedrich Steinle (TU Berlin), Prof. Dr. Michael Stöltzner (University of South Carolina), Dr. Adrian Wüthrich (TU Berlin) and Prof. Dr. Christian Zeitnitz (Wuppertal University).

Deutsche Version

The original press release on the sites of the BUW can be found here.