The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a massive project conceptualized by the CERN, The European Organization for Nuclear Research, involving 10 billion dollars of investment and teams of 10000 scientists and engineers from over 100 countries. It is designed to occupy a 27 km long underground tunnel near the French-Swiss border at depths of 330 feet. It is expected to collide protons travelling at speeds of 99.99999% of light at energies of 7 Tera-electron volts with each other generating energy of 14 T-eV, 7 times higher than the maximum till date.

The plethora of discoveries and inventions has been widening ever since the first apple fell on Newton’s head or even farther back in the pages of history. Our desire to know more about the reasons behind why things happen the way they do, has provided us with so many remarkable break-through achievements, that life today is just building on the layers of science and technology that has been painfully constructed over a vast spectrum of time. The pursuits of the few visionaries have never been easy, especially against the heavy odds of an orthodox and conventional contemporary society. But their perseverance and conviction paid off and we are bearing the fruits of their efforts in the names of technology. Man should always be grateful to the scientific endeavors of his predecessors.

The intellect of man has been on such fast paced successful projects that almost all that could be discovered has already been found out. In fact, the British Patents Office in 1897 remarked that it is practical to close down the offices as there could be no more developments. And dramatically enough, there were double the number of inventions and paten-registrations in the next 110 years.

Although we have been very successful in establishing a materialistic lifestyle with unchallengeable competence, our expertise is limited on the fundamental grounds. Our model of the universe and matter is based on the elementary particles that make up matter. But we have been ineffective in successfully propounding theories that can establish the existence of further basic particles that actually make up the electron, proton, and the nucleus. Various concepts have sprung up in the recent years like String theory, dark energy, dark matter etc. still no proper scientific proof or support is available. These strictly demand the need for an experiment that could unearth the secrets lying beneath our conceptions. It’s also an exciting prospect to think about a unified theory of physics, and beyond that a “theory of everything”. The upcoming experiments should be able to push the standard model of how we understand the universe to the limits.

The answer is the LHC. It is capable of, at least theoretically, producing particles of the likes of mesons, baryons, and other elusive particles that have flooded the text books for long times but have been absent from the labs for unbearably long times. The after-smash particles would generate energy similar to those generated after the Big Bang and could help in understanding the origin of our galaxy. The main aim of attempting such a massive project was to discover the Higgs Boson, popularly called the Holy Grail; a particle proposed by the Higgs model that is supposed to be the exact paradigm for the existence of all kinds of matter and energy.

There are other benefits to look at from the outputs of this experiment. The discovery of new elementary particles would allow us to develop insights into the world of matter and thus give us considerable command on how commercial products and drugs are being produced. The development of smaller elements can give us the strength of graphene sheets uses in aero planes at much lesser costs of weight and fragility. Scientists at the research group also highlight the production of molecular acids that could break down CFCs rapidly faster by accelerating reactions. This could be of vital importance in the wake of rising dangers of global warming, ozone layer depletion, and climate change, the prime cause of which is the accumulated CFC’s in our atmosphere. That would be a welcome change for the environmentalists and our future generations. Other fronts include cleaner methods of energy generations by the nuclear and atomic power thus produced by the collisions within LHC.

A window to the world of nano-particles would add infinite success to the ambitious projects of gene-decoding and cell analysis. Biological claims guarantee the development of better and efficient methods to combat hitherto incurable diseases like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even paralysis. Despite the ethical issues involved, stem cell research and genetic engineering could have so many benefits: cures for individual diseases, personalized medicine, even an end to poverty and over-population.

But a great challenge to the whole project has been floated about very recently. Rumor has it that the physicists working at the Tevatron (an accelerator smaller than the LHC, located near Chicago) have found a peak twice as high as any previous “bumps” (evidence of the Higgs Boson). The rumor also includes important details of the new particle’s mass, which fits within the theoretical bounds of the standard model Higgs. It even includes a description of the decay chain, or what the particle turned into as the experiment progressed, which is consistent with predictions. So the above discussion zeroes to conclusions that negate the need for investing such enormous amounts of cash on the new LHC project.

Arindham Chakroborty

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