A historic day for Physicists all around the world. The first phase of the Big Bang Experiment was completed without any hiccups. It was conducted in a 27km circular tunnel 80m below the ground in Geneva. The instrument used is called the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). which basically is a subatomic particle smasher. The main objective of the experiment is to recreate conditions just after the Big Bang occurred which is widely believed to be how the the Universe came into being in the first place about 13.7 billion years ago. Its being conducted by the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN, and involves over 2000 scientists from around the world.
The experiment essentially involves accelerating beams of subatomic particles through the circular tunnel, guided by more than a thousand cylindrical, supercooled magnets. Two beams of particles will move in opposite directions around the tunnel and at four locations the beams will converge, sending the particles crashing into each other at nearly the speed of light. Particle collisions can create other particles because energy equals mass (as Albert Einstein noted when he introduced the equation E=mc2). Two masses (particles) collide, creating a burst of energy, and then condense into other masses (particles).These Â particles have never been seen since the Big Bang occurred. As after the bang the temperature and pressure was trillion times more than it is now, the particles that might have been created then would be highly energized and hence unstable. Scientists now are trying to look for those exotic particles that might have formed after the collision and given rise to matter. These are hence the very fundamental particles of matter.
Initially the atom was considered to be the most fundamental particle but now we know that electrons, protons and neutrons are the subatomic particles. It is now known that the protons and neutrons are made of smaller particles- quarks and gluons. The neutrons and protons are the hadrons that give the reactor its name.
This experiment Â if successful will be able to explain a lot of questions in particle physics. The major question will be regarding the Higgs-Boson particle. This particle has never been seen theoretically. It is the first particle that is supposed to have formed and was 100 to 200 times heavier than the average proton. It is believed that a Higgs field pervades all space and the Higgs particle is the carrier of the field. This particle will answer the fundamental questions regarding the origin of mass, the mass of proton, etc.
Another question that scientists can find answer to is the whereabouts of antimatter that formed after matter was formed after the collision. Theoretically the two should have canceled each other’s effects and the Universe should have been empty. But then here we are with all the planets and stars and cosmic bodies.
Another question is regarding dark matter and dark energy which forms a massive part of the Universe. One source I read mentioned the presence of gravitational force on planets that could not be accounted for by their matter alone. This indicated led to the theory of dark matter and energy. The theory of super symmetry postulates that every fundamental particle in space had a large unstable counterpart. It is believed that one such counterpart might have been able to survive and is present everywhere, even our body. This is dark matter.
There is also the baffling question of the quark-gluon plasma state and also the question of why there are so many fundamental particles.
Well to know the answers we’ll have to wait for the next couple of years till all the data generated from this experiment has been analyzed. The actual collision of the particles is expected to occur only at the end of this week. There are sophisticated computers and detectors that will be able to detect the Higgs-Boson as soon it is formed and also trace its degradation products.
We are all thinking about what happens if the experiment would fail to generate any such particle. Scientists believe that then it will require more thinking and correction of some of basic laws in physics. Stephen Hawking however believes that it would be interesting if this would happen as then it would require more brainstorming and thinking.
That’s what drives great minds I guess!!