Seeking the Miniscule

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From the very start of civilization, we have been intrigued and enthralled by the mysteries that the unexplored universe holds. Over the years, scientists around the world have remained perplexed by the complexities of the universe, and have been trying to find the answers to the puzzles that the universe keeps challenging us with.  
The laws of Physics, especially, the branch of Physics called Particle Physics has played a vital role in helping us expand our knowledge about the universe and cosmic processes. For decades, the Standard Model of particle physics has served as a means of understanding the fundamental laws of Nature, but it contains many gaps and thus, does not tell us the whole story.


In a move to further simplify and clarify our concepts about nature and the fundamental particles, CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear research, has announced its plans to develop a Large Hardron Collider. CERN is one of the world’s largest and most respected centres for scientific research – working in the field of fundamental physics, finding out what the Universe is made of and how it works. At CERN, the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments are used to study the basic constituents of matter.


The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) mainly consists of a 27 km ring of superconducting magnets with a number of accelerating structures to boost the energy of the particles along the way and has been built to help scientists to answer key unresolved questions in particle physics. It is situated near Geneva, spanning the border between Switzerland and France, 100 m underground. It is a particle accelerator, to be used to study the fundamental particles of matter. It is all set to revolutionise our understanding, from the miniscule world deep within atoms to the vastness of the Universe, which have always posed puzzling questions in all our minds.


The LHC is all set to find answers to confusing questions such as: what is mass? What is the origin of mass? Why do tiny particles weigh the amount they do? Why do some particles have no mass at all? Why is there no more antimatter? What was matter like within the first second of the Universe’s life? Do extra dimensions of space really exist?


Questions like these have long been subjects of constant speculation and the answers to these could completely change our perception of the fundamental theories of physics. The experiments will be actively searching for signs of the elusive Higgs Boson a key undiscovered particle that is essential for the Standard Model of Physics to work, looking for supersymmetric particles to test a likely hypothesis for the make-up of dark matter and the differences between matter and antimatter. The LHC will be able to recreate conditions similar to those just after the Big Bang, in particular to analyse the properties of the matter formed just after it, and thre is also a possiblility of the detection of parallel dimensions.


This is going to be a path-breaking facility, but concerns about the safety of whatever may be created in such high-energy particle collisions have been addressed for many years, and still remain a matter of utmost concern for CERN. In the light of new experimental data and theoretical understanding, the LHC Safety Assessment Group (LSAG) has updated a review of the analysis made in 2003 and has concluded that all the experiments to be carried out in the LHC are safe and pose no threat whatsoever to the environment or the earth itself, since all the conditions to be simulated in the LHC already exist in some form in nature.


Like every other expeirment, this one too is bound to have its pros and cons. This CERN invention is posed to be the biggest evdeavour of all time, provided it comes out as planned. As the world hopefully looks on and eagerly waits for more information, CERN is still deeply engrossed in preparing for the launch of the Large Hardron Collider, which is ready to revamp all the fundaments of Physics and is waiting to show us a clearer picture of what happens in the depths of space and in the miniscule world of sub-atomic particles.


Lakshika Pant

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