The September 10 Bang!

September 10 is an important date in the scientific calendar of the world with many ignorant claiming it to be the end of the world since it will create a black hole that will consume the entire earth. Members of CERN, who are part of the experiment, have also received death threats. However, critics and the superstitious might have to wait for another event to end the world and take up the case of humanity since this experiment is safe and the micro black holes, created in the collider will be largely insufficient to consume the earth. In fact, Stephens Hawkings has stated that ‘LHC is vital if the human race is not to stultify and eventually die’. He has gone a step further and wryly commented on the possibility of winning a Nobel Prize if the existence of black holes is indeed ascertained and collaborates with his predictions.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) a particle accelerator( the largest made this far), with a radius of 4.3 kilometers located at the Swiss- French border, near Geneva and 100m underground, has had an approximate of 10 per cent of the World’s GDP as investment and 30 years of planning behind it. Touted as the most expensive and anxiously awaited experiment in the World of science, the LHC is expected to unravel phenomena that remain largely unexplained by science till date. It seeks to explain primarily the ‘big-bang’ theory, how the universe came into existence. The current theory states that cosmic explosion, 13.7 years ago, created time and space. Thus, more dimensions we are unaware of may exist and be known through the LHC.

The LHC works in the following way: particles traveling at the speed of light are made to collide and the resulting explosions made visible to the physicists studying the phenomenon. These collisions produce massive particles if the energy levels of the Collider are high (LHC is by far the highest). The particles thus produced are associated with their respective force fields which are mapped with the help of detectors on computers. Thus out of millions of collisions happening the possibility of particles unknown to physicists, including the Higgs Boson, being produced in the process are high. This will lead to a scientific breakthrough much to the benefit of the scientific community.

Physicists have earlier conducted experiments that showed evidence for the existence of smaller particles. Atoms, as had long been believed are not the fundamental particles, smaller particles like muons, neutrinos, Ws and Zs and so forth, exist. Experiments may reveal particles smaller than these; the LHC is capable of magnification up to 500 times greater than what is possible today.

Further, four forces are known to exist-Electromagnetic, weak, strong and gravitational forces. Satisfactory theory exists on electromagnetic, weak and strong forces. What is required is an explanation combining all the four forces (including gravity) together, which has so far been inexplicable.

Another important reason for building the LHC is the Higgs boson, also known as the ‘God Particle’. A boson is a particle associated with force. A Higgs boson is responsible for the mass of other particles. Without the Higgs field the quarks, leptons, protons etc would have zero mass the four forces mentioned above would simplify to one. However, with the existence of the Higgs field the particles acquire mass and the four forces re-emerge re-imposing their complexities. To understand and find out more about the ‘God Particle’ becomes important for theorists, since it is the missing evidence in a theory that explains a basic characteristic of the universe, how fundamental particles acquire mass.

The stars and galaxies account for only 4-5 per cent of the universe. The rest is dark matter (20-25 per cent) and dark energy (70-75 per cent). Currently, the origin of dark matter is unknown. Besides, it the reason for the existence of galaxies. LHC can also help find out more about dark energy and dark matter. The LHC seeks to resolve further questions about matter and anti-matter. When the universe came into being an equal quantity of matter and anti matter was produced. So why did they not annihilate each other? Instead, our universe is primarily composed of matter.

Supersymmetry theorizes that all particles have heavier counterparts with the same electrical charge but different spin (an intrinsic property of particles). No superparticles have ever been seen, but if they exist, the LHC should be able to produce one, and many physicists suspect that a superparticle could be the basic component of dark matter.

Finally, the LHC could be used to find out if there are more dimensions than the existing known to us. Extra dimensions are a feature of string theory. String theory tries to unify physics by explaining all particles and forces as vibrations of one dimensional string. It also predicts the existence of 6 to 7 more dimensions unknown to us.

Many think this experiment could very well bring on the end of the world. But CERN has conducted trials to assure the people of its safety. Furthermore, the temperature in the collider -273 Celsius with liquid helium around it is sufficient to absorb the heat, ensuring that it wont have an adverse effect on the surroundings.

The LHC, all in all, is the next best thing to happen to science. All hopes are on it to explain the unexplained and open new doors to realms physicists were earlier unaware of about the universe. The expectations of the LHC can run into more pages and highly technical details. But is suffices for a layman to know that what is being termed as the end of the world may in fact the beginning of a new age of knowledge with us getting an insight into the different aspects about the existence of the universe and unravel the simplicity that has been cloaked by various complex processes known to us.

Charulata Somal

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