Universe and its Understanding

“Our understanding of the Universe is about to change…”

With the opening of the biggest particle accelerator, The Large Hadron Collider- a gigantic machine, 27 km in circumference, buried under the earth, intended to collide opposing beams of 7 TeV protons, physicists around the globe are wondering whether this man made wonder can change our knowledge on the science of physics.


The LHC was built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), and lies under the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva, Switzerland. The LHC is the world’s largest and the highest-energy particle accelerator. The Machine complex is housed inside a circular tunnel, 27 km long, buried at a depth of more than 100 m underground with its cost ranging between 4 to 6 billion euros! It is a is used by physicists to study the smallest known particles – the fundamental building blocks of all things. It will revolutionise our understanding, from the miniscule world deep within atoms to the vastness of the universe.


Its working is also an engineering wonder. Inside the accelerator, two beams of particles travel at close to the speed of light with very high energies before colliding with one another. The beams travel in opposite directions in separate tubes kept at ultrahigh vacuum. They are guided around the accelerator ring by a strong magnetic field, achieved using superconducting electromagnets. These are built from coils of special electric cable that operates in a superconducting state, efficiently conducting electricity without resistance or loss of energy. This requires chilling the magnets to about 271°C – a temperature colder than outer space! While operating, the total energy stored in the magnets is 10 GJ, which is the equivalent of 2.4 tons of TNT or the heat from the burning of 300 litres (80 gallons) of petrol.


Thus size of the LHC constitutes an exceptional engineering challenge with unique safety issues on account of the huge energy stored in the magnets and the beams. Apart from being in the construction controversies, the LHC is constantly the centre of questions about how its experiment might change our thinking.


Dan Brown’s popular book “Angels & Demons” got me interested in the world of anti matter, and CERN’s projects. The Anti matter- the most costliest fuel on earth was created in milligrams by CERNs scientists using the older LEP. LEP was closed in the year 2000. The brand new LHC has been made in place of this LEP, and tends to create something that answer questions like “How was our Universe Made?” “What is exactly Higgs Boson?” or to the find “The Grand Unified Theory”.


But a gigantic machine, just created for research, is definitely a bugging Issue. This experiment’s failure would account for the loss of a huge sum of money. CERN’s earlier discovery of Anti Matter, could have provided us of various possibilities. This material on reacting with matter present on earth(annihilation) provides more energy than any nuclear Reaction. This as a fuel can provide abundant relief, but as a mass destructer, it can be the worst possible fear. But can CERN now produce something even massive than anti-matter, is what all spectators around the world are wondering about.


But according to me, putting efforts in scientific research is definitely better than wasting it in logically useless commodities like entertainment. It is only because of progress in science, that we have reached so far. Without science gadgets, the popularity of celebrities could never have been so much, as it is now.


We all are servants of nature, as long as we don’t try to understand or take care of it, it might turn against us.


Shambhavi Sharan


[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattgarrett/2736334980/]