September 10, 2008 will be a date which will be embedded in the history of science and technology for the coming ages. Luckily, we will be able to witness it as the Welshman physicist, Lyn Evans, will unlock the mystery of the Big Bang theory when he switches on the world’s largest particle accelerator called the “Large Hadron Collider.” The aim of the experiment is to “crack the code of the physical world” by creating conditions similar to those which happened when the Big Bang occurred which resulted in creation of the universe.
The Large Hadron Collider(LHC) is the world’s largest instrument which had a budget of $9 billion and lies 300 feet below the French village of Crozet. The LHC is largely the brain child of a team of Australian scientists. This is the animate depiction of the antimatter creating machine which was the centre of Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons. Built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) which is also popular in literary culture, the creation of the LHC was not a day’s job. The idea of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), began in the early 1980s and the official construction began in April 1998. So ten years later, that is tomorrow, it will be switched on for the first time to find the smallest sub-atomic particle till date which we popularly call in scientific culture as the “GOD” particle.
First of all, what is the God particle? As we gather from Wikipedia, “God Particle” is a hypothetical massive scalar elementary particle predicted to exist by the Standard Model of particle physics. In fact, it is the only Standard Model particle not yet observed. And we thought our world ended at electrons! It is predicted that by observing this small particle we will be able to figure out how mass-less sub-atomic particles combine to form actual matter. Scientifically, we call this God particle as the Higgs boson. According to the standard theory of matter, the boson gives everything its mass.
Now the question arises, how exactly are we going to break the atom to an extent that we get the smallest particle known to man? According to physicist, Dr. Kevin Varvell, who has been working on this device since the last twenty years, the collider will fire two beams of particles in opposite directions around a 17-kilometre ring at almost the speed of light. This head-on collision of the beams will create fireballs and showers of subatomic debris never witnessed before. Dr Varvell has said that the impacts could produce man-made mini black holes, revealing that the universe has extra dimensions that are normally curled up, and throw light on the nature of the mysterious dark matter which makes up most of the cosmos. Also we would finally get an answer to whether the fantastic particle Higgs boson, or God particle, exists or not. A detailed depiction of the process quoted from the National Geographic Magazine says, “Starting sometime in the coming months, two beams of particles will race in opposite directions around the tunnel, which forms an underground ring 17 miles in circumference. The particles will be guided by more than a thousand cylindrical, supercooled magnets, linked like sausages. At four locations the beams will converge, sending the particles crashing into each other at nearly the speed of light. If all goes right, matter will be transformed by the violent collisions into wads of energy, which will in turn condense back into various intriguing types of particles, some of them never seen before. That’s the essence of experimental particle physics: You smash stuff together and see what other stuff comes out.”
Well that was in March and now the time is here!
Some scientists however are critical of the “ATLAS experiment” as it is called. They feel that the experiment could create a shower of unstable black holes that could “eat” the planet from within! The fear of famous retired German chemist, Otto Rossler is that the experiment may create a devastating quasar – a mass of energy fuelled by black holes – inside the earth. Jets emanating from it would grow and catastrophes such as earthquakes and tsunamis would occur at the points they emerged from the earth.
Whenever I sit and study the history of science and the famous theories associated with it, I am totally enraptured by them! Sometimes I wish I was with Einstein when he developed the “Theory of Relativity.” But then I am lucky to see the changes that have occurred in the theory since then paving way for quantum mechanics. Finally, we are all lucky to witness a new theory which will be unlocked tomorrow giving us an answer on how we came to be a part of the Universe which is indeed, as they rightly say, “A TOUGH NUT TO CRACK.”
[Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/apophysis_rocks/2710849007/]