The Large Hadron Collider

The recent discovery of the Higg’s Boson has stirred not just the scientific community, but the whole world. Such magnified attention to a scientific discovery is quite rare, but the media attention focused on it, has brought this, and the Large Hadron Collider, which made it possible, into the limelight.

The LHC, simply speaking, is a very large tunnel, although this would undermine the plethora of sophisticated scientific instruments present. The tunnel constitutes a major part of it and is massively long, though ironically it smashes particles so minute that they can only be viewed by a scanning tunneling microscope.

Its development has allowed particle collisions at near-light speeds, in order to determine the answers of various open questions plaguing physics. One of the primary purposes of the LHC is to prove the existence of the Higg’s Boson, which proves the existence of the Higg’s field, which itself imparts mass.

The LHC is a project undertaken largely by CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research), based inGeneva,Switzerland. The project started in 1998 and went on for 10 years, with over 10,000 scientists and engineers from 100 countries assisting in its building. Many other universities and laboratories also aided in its development. This has resulted in the largest particle collider in the world, lying in a tunnel which is diametrically 27 km, and is 175 km deep.

To aid in particle collisions at such high speeds, an array of more than 10,000 magnets are used, with 9,300 concentrated in its accelerator. It is also a cryogenic paradise, with final temperatures of its magnets close to -271 Celsius, achieved by poring almost 120 tonnes of liquid helium. Conversely, it is a thermogenic hell, exuding temperatures 100,000 times hotter than the sun (such as when two beams of lead ions collide).

The protons travelling through the collider will travel at 99.9999991% of the speed of light, and such ditzy accelerations are accompanied by 1.12 Microjoules of energy being generated by each particle. So that these high flying particles do not go on a headless collision with anything else, a vacuum of 10^-13 atm (a unit of pressure) is created.

To top it all of, and just so that these mind boggling figures can actually be calculated, processed and analyzed, the most delicate and complex systems and detectors are employed. Along with this, one of the most powerful supercomputers is used to help in this process.

All this is great, but what exactly is the use of the LHC? Well, other than the discovery of the Higg’s Boson, the scientists at the facility have made use of it to answer many of the fundamental, yet unanswered questions in understanding the universe, as well as the current theories attached to it.

The presence of black matter and black energy, a mysterious type of matter (and energy) believed to encompass much of the universe itself, is currently being investigated. Other than this, extra dimensions (transcending the physical quantities of length, breadth, and height), conditions just after the Big Bang, antimatter, and many more are being experimented upon, which was possible only after such advanced machinery could be built.

Man’s unquenchable thirst for knowledge can be clearly seen through this magnificent structure. Although it may seem to one that these structures do not have any “practical” value, by understanding the secrets of our universe, we understand where we come from, and what purpose and place we actually have. Pursuit of knowledge can lead to such practical inventions, but knowledge is our true aim, and not knowing cannot be the way forward.

Unfortunately, such discoveries can also be used for destructive means, as we all know. Thus, these inventions and discoveries must be used responsibly, considering the implications on everything involved, in order to make sure mankind is uplifted.

Due to breakthroughs caused by the LHC, many other principles and theories have been developed in an upward multiplier effect. Such a wide scope on the nature of our universe has been unprecedented. It will aid mankind by helping it know much, much more about the universe’s secrets, so that our incessant curiosity which has brought humanity this far, can be quenched.

Varun Srivatsan

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