Posts Tagged ‘CERN’

Large Hadron Collider


Large Hadron Collider

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), located in a tunnel 27 kilometers (17 miles)  in circumference beneath the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva, Switzerland, is the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator intended to collide opposing particle beams of either protons at an energy of 7 TeV per particle or lead nuclei at an energy of 574 TeV per nucleus in an attempt to re-create the Big Bang.

It was built with the intention of testing various high energy physics, such as the existence of the Higgs Boson (the massive scalar elementary particle, commonly portrayed as the “God Particle” in the media) and extra dimensions predicted in the relatively new science of String Theory.

Before the LHC even begun work (before it had its first fault), many skeptics believed that it would create a black hole that would engulf the planet and eventually our solar system of course. But scientists have unanimously agreed that this is a near impossibility, yet slight chance a minute black hole could be developed. Concerns are based on fear of radiation (no danger 328 feet underground), fear of “strangelets,” exotic material that can pop up enough gravity to turn the planet into a giant sucking sound (if such strangelets existed, they’d be unstable and decay in a zillionth of a second), and that most ominous one, black holes (no way, they’d be too small and unstable to do any harm). The concerns are based on fear of radiation (not a problem at over 100 meters, 328 feet, underground), fear of “strangelets,” exotic material that can pop up enough gravity to (though if they existed they would be too unstable and exist, well, you can’t even blink that fast, and that most ominous one, black holes. But Professor Stephen Hawking did theorize that black holes need a certain minimum size in order to survive and gather more energy then in uses. In the LHC case the black holes, if at all, developed would be far too minute to hold any danger at all.

One things for sure, it will blow our minds away (hopefully) in the following ways:

  • Accelerates particles faster than, albeit atomic-sized, 99.9999991% the speed of light. And for those tiny particles, time slows down for them (another immortality solution?).
  • Give us a whole new meaning on cold. The temperatures needed to steer particles around the tunnel are well below those found in deep space (-270 Celsius/-454 Fahrenheit), at a cost of $100,000 worth of electricity every day.
  • Might find the Higgs boson. Researchers think if they find it, it may help them explain exactly why things have any mass at all (Did you ever stop to think about that?).
  • The whole cost of the scientific experiment exceeds that of the cost of Iceland, having currently spent $20 billion for a few decades now. It is expected to rise quite a bit during operations and with $100,000 a day, why not?
  • Might prove string theory. Some of the scientists working on this project believe in string theory, which posits that atoms and molecules aren’t particles at all, but vibrating strings that seem to be in two (or more) places at once (extra dimensions with 14 estimated).
  • Could discover a whole new group of particles. The string theorists are especially interested in finding supersymmetric particles (the relationship between matter particles and force carriers. For example, for every type of quark there may be a type of particle called a “squark”, and this may unify gravity if proven) or sparticles, to help prove their tangled theory.
  • It’s going to get even bigger. Plans are in the works to make this behemoth even more monstrous, and by 2012 it could be called the Super Large Hadron Collider (SLHC), giving scientists an even better chance of seeing rare particles and building on their research with the LHC.
  • Unlock secrets about dark matter and dark energy. There’s something out there in the universe that’s pulling galaxies around. All the stuff we can see only accounts for 4% of the total matter in the universe. But that’s not even the half of it. Visible and dark matter together might only account for 25% of the universe’s mass. The other three quarters? Dark energy, alleged contributor to the expansion of the universe — and we don’t even know if dark energy exists yet.
  • This thing sucks, big time. In fact, it contains the largest volume of a vacuum ever created by man, and it’s a super-vacuum, sucking 10 times less pressure than you’d find on the moon. It contains fewer particles than the emptiest parts of the solar system — we wouldn’t want any stray atoms getting in the way of those light-racing protons, now would we?
  • Might develop black holes and engulf the planet. But all credible scientists say the collider poses no threat to the world, except to smash old physics theories that are incorrect. Even if it does, it will be so fast we wouldn’t even be able to complain
  • Test whether hyper-drive is possible based on the idea that a stationary mass repels a relativistic particle that’s traveling faster than half the speed of light. We may yet be on our way to other stars.

In anyway, when the project restarts in mid November 2009, it should be really interesting to see what has been proven and debunked. Stay tuned!