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Old 09-10-2008, 02:27 AM
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AndyKoh AndyKoh is offline
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Thumbs up LHC - Biggest Scientific Experiment of the Century!

To all the people that are scientifically-inclined,

Don't miss out on the biggest scientific experiment of the century - the launch of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at about 3:30pm today (Wednesday, 10th Sept 2008)!

- 20 years in the planning and construction
- Costs over US$10 Billion dollars
- Spans 27km, 100 meters underneath France and Switzerland
- Involves tens of thousands of scientists from 111 countries

Catch it live at Cern's Webcast:

More interesting articles at Scientific American:

For those that have not heard of LHC, here's some brief info.


What Is The Large Hadron Collider?

The LHC is exactly what its name suggests - a large collider of hadrons. Strictly, LHC refers to the collider; a machine that deserves to be labelled ‘large’, it not only weighs more than 38,000 tonnes, but runs for 27km (16.5m) in a circular tunnel 100 metres beneath the Swiss/French border at Geneva.

However, the collider is only one of three essential parts of the LHC project. The other two are:
the detectors, which sit in 4 huge chambers at points around the LHC tunnel and the GRID, which is a global network of computers and software essential to processing the data recorded by LHC’s detectors.

The LHC’s 27km loop in a sense encircles the globe, because the LHC project is supported by an enormous international community of scientists and engineers. Working in multinational teams, at CERN and around the world, they are building and testing LHC equipment and software, participating in experiments and analysing data.

What will the LHC do?

The LHC will allow scientists to probe deeper into the heart of matter and further back in time than has been possible using previous colliders.

Researchers think that the Universe originated in the Big Bang (an unimaginably violent explosion) and since then the Universe has been cooling down and becoming less energetic. Very early in the cooling process the matter and forces that make up our world ‘condensed’ out of this ball of energy.

The LHC will produce tiny patches of very high energy by colliding together atomic particles that are travelling at very high speed. The more energy produced in the collisions the further back we can look towards the very high energies that existed early in the evolution of the Universe. Collisions in the LHC will have up to 7x the energy of those produced in previous machines; recreating energies and conditions that existed billionths of a second after the start of the Big Bang.

The results from the LHC are not completely predictable as the experiments are testing ideas that are at the frontiers of our knowledge and understanding. Researchers expect to confirm predictions made on the basis of what we know from previous experiments and theories. However, part of the excitement of the LHC project is that it may uncover new facts about matter and the origins of the Universe.

One of the most interesting theories the LHC will test was put forward by the UK physicist Professor Peter Higgs and others. The different types of fundamental particle that make up matter have very different masses, while the particles that make up light (photons) have no mass at all. Peter’s theory is one explanation of why this is so and the LHC will allow us to test the theory.

How does the LHC work?

The LHC accelerates two beams of atomic particles in opposite directions around the 27km collider. When the particle beams reach their maximum speed the LHC allows them to ‘collide’ at 4 points on their circular journey.

Thousands of new particles are produced when particles collide and detectors, placed around the collision points, allow scientists to identify these new particles by tracking their behaviour.

The detectors are able to follow the millions of collisions and new particles produced every second and identify the distinctive behaviour of interesting new particles from among the many thousands that are of little interest.

As the energy produced in the collisions increases researchers are able to peer deeper into the fundamental structure of the Universe and further back in its history. In these extreme conditions unknown atomic particles may appear.

LHC seeks to address some of the biggest scientific questions of our universe:


How did our universe come to be the way it is?

The Universe started with a Big Bang – but we don’t fully understand how or why it developed the way it did. The LHC will let us see how matter behaved a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang. Researchers have some ideas of what to expect – but also expect the unexpected!

What kind of Universe do we live in?

Many physicists think the Universe has more dimensions than the four (space and time) we are aware of. Will the LHC bring us evidence of new dimensions?

Gravity does not fit comfortably into the current descriptions of forces used by physicists. It is also very much weaker than the other forces. One explanation for this may be that our Universe is part of a larger multi dimensional reality and that gravity can leak into other dimensions, making it appear weaker. The LHC may allow us to see evidence of these extra dimensions - for example, the production of mini-black holes which blink into and out of existence in a tiny fraction of a second.

What happened in the Big Bang?

What was the Universe made of before the matter we see around us formed? The LHC will recreate, on a microscale, conditions that existed during the first billionth of a second of the Big Bang.

At the earliest moments of the Big Bang, the Universe consisted of a searingly hot soup of fundamental particles - quarks, leptons and the force carriers. As the Universe cooled to 1000 billion degrees, the quarks and gluons (carriers of the strong force) combined into composite particles like protons and neutrons. The LHC will collide lead nuclei so that they release their constituent quarks in a fleeting ‘Little Bang’. This will take us back to the time before these particles formed, re-creating the conditions early in the evolution of the universe, when quarks and gluons were free to mix without combining. The debris detected will provide important information about this very early state of matter.

Where is the antimatter?

The Big Bang created equal amounts of matter and antimatter, but we only see matter now. What happened to the antimatter?

Every fundamental matter particle has an antimatter partner with equal but opposite properties such as electric charge (for example, the negative electron has a positive antimatter partner called the positron). Equal amounts of matter and antimatter were created in the Big Bang, but antimatter then disappeared. So what happened to it? Experiments have already shown that some matter particles decay at different rates from their anti-particles, which could explain this. One of the LHC experiments will study these subtle differences between matter and antimatter particles.

Why do particles have mass?

Why do some particles have mass while others don’t? What makes this difference? If the LHC reveal particles predicted by theory it will help us understand this.

Particles of light (known as photons) have no mass. Matter particles (such as electrons and quarks) do – and we’re not sure why. British physicist, Peter Higgs, proposed the existence of a field (the Higg’s Field), which pervades the entire Universe and interacts with some particles and this gives them mass. If the theory is right then the field should reveal itself as a particle (the Higg’s particle). The Higg’s particle is too heavy to be made in existing accelerators, but the high energies of the LHC should enable us to produce and detect it.

What is our Universe made of?

Ninety-six percent of our Universe is missing! Much of the missing matter is stuff researchers have called ‘dark matter’. Can the LHC find out what it is made of?

The theory of ‘supersymmetry’ suggests that all known particles have, as yet undetected, ‘superpartners’. If they exist, the LHC should find them. These ‘supersymmetric’ particles may help explain one mystery of the Universe – missing matter. Astronomers detect the gravitational effects of large amounts of matter that can’t be seen and so is called ‘Dark Matter’. One possible explanation of dark matter is that it consists of supersymmetric particles.

I have also attached some pictures of the gigantic LHC. Absolutely magnificent and awesome.
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Last edited by AndyKoh; 09-10-2008 at 02:47 AM.
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