Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Scientists send first beam round particle-smasher

Scientists send first beam round particle-smasher

Wed Sep 10, 2008 8:42am EDT

By Robert Evans

GENEVA (Reuters) - International scientists working at an underground complex started up a huge particle-smashing machine on Wednesday aiming to recreate the conditions of the "Big Bang" that created the universe.

Experts say it is the largest scientific experiment in human history and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the biggest and most complex machine ever made.

The test by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), conducted inside the tightly-sealed chamber buried under the Swiss-French border, could unlock many secrets of modern physics and answer questions about the universe and its origins.

The 10 billion Swiss franc ($9 billion) machine's debut came as a blip on a screen in the control room, with a particle beam the size of a human hair appearing in the 27-km (17-mile) circular tunnel.

"We've got a beam on the LHC," project leader Lyn Evans told his colleagues, who burst into applause at the news.

The several hundred physicists and technicians huddled in the control room celebrated loudly again when a particle beam made a full clockwise trajectory of the accelerator, successfully completing the machine's first major task.

"It is going fantastically well," said Verena Kain, a senior engineer in charge of the control room.

Scientists will later on Wednesday send another beam around the chamber counter-clockwise to ensure the path is clear.

Once this is established, particle beams can be sent in both directions simultaneously to create high-energy collisions at close to the speed of light.


Physicists around the world will be watching for whether those collisions recreate on a miniature scale the heat and energy of the Big Bang, a concept of the origin of the universe that dominates scientific thinking.

The organization has had to work hard to deny suggestions by some critics that the experiment could create tiny black holes of intense gravity that could suck in the whole planet.

Such fears, fanned by doomsday writers, have spurred huge interest in particle physics before the machine's start-up. The organization has insisted such concerns are unfounded.

Once the particle-smashing experiment gets to full speed, data measuring the location of particles to a few millionths of a meter, and the passage of time to billionths of a second, will show how the particles come together, fly apart, or dissolve.

It is in these conditions that scientists hope to find fairly quickly a theoretical particle known as the Higgs Boson, named after Scottish scientist Peter Higgs who first proposed it in 1964, as the answer to the mystery of how matter gains mass.

Without mass, the stars and planets in the universe could never have taken shape in the eons after the Big Bang, and life could never have begun -- on Earth or, if it exists as many cosmologists believe, on other worlds either.

The Big Bang is thought to have occurred 15 billion years ago when an unimaginably dense and hot object the size of a small coin exploded in a void, spewing out matter that expanded rapidly to create stars, planets and eventually life on Earth.

Come Together and Create!
Peter S. Lopez aka: Peta

Sacramento, California, Aztlan

No comments: