CERN, the Large Hadron Collider and the fibre optic web #2

I’ve been meaning to write about this for ages. Having done my research i am actually quite happy just to post what others have written. I wouldn’t have been able to give you the facts any better, and the whole idea of what theses scientists are trying to do , the cost, scale and implications of it all are just insane!

God particles and dark matter may sound more like topics for theological debate than terms of science, but they’re both part of a global collaboration in physics research in which the University of Texas at Arlington is playing a key role. The 15-year effort will culminate over the next few months in France and Switzerland, when the world’s largest particle collider goes into operation.

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Four devices called particle detectors, placed along the tunnel, will act like giant cameras, gathering data about the collisions. The largest of the four, known as the ATLAS detector, was built mostly by a group at UTA.

The ATLAS device, roughly seven stories high and housing a cavern as big as a football field, is made of layers of steel and plastic, in 128 pie-slice-shaped pieces, each weighing about half a ton, that are fitted together with crucial precision. UTA’s portion of the construction process took from 1998 to 2002. The entire project — ATLAS and the other three particle detectors, plus the tunnel itself and the related computer operations — are known as the Large Hadron Collider, named for a type of proton to be used in the project. It’s located at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, straddling the French-Swiss border.
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It is a device to facilitate the collision of two protons circling round in opposite direction at an awesome energy of trillions of electron volts (one trillion electron volts is a million times a million electron volts — an electron volt is the energy gained by an electron across a potential of one volt), protons and neutrons along with mesons constituting an atomic nucleus, which harnesses the mystery of nuclear fission leading to either a reactor or even a bomb.

For CERN, and indeed for all the countries which have been participating in this incredible adventure, the moment of reckoning is nigh. The Large Hadron Collider is about to go into operation.

With the collision of two nuclei, man will create a speck of energy window, within a very very tiny volume, equivalent to one million times the temperature in the interior of the sun. Indeed, the universe, a microsecond (a millionth of a second) after its birth from the Big Bang, according to conventional wisdom, must have been in this state. So, LHC is having a “peep” into the very early stages of the creation of the universe and, of course, into the history of its evolution through space and time since then. And now, 14 billion years later on this planet, we shall mimic that primordial epoch. Colliding proton with proton, one can trace back to even earlier times of the universe, coming even closer to the Big Bang.

Our workhorses, the PMD and the Manas chip of the muon arm are expected to pick up signals of a plasma of the most fundamental elements of all matter, of quarks and gluons. Quarks are glued together by gluons, the building blocks of our familiar protons and neutrons; three quarks make either a proton or a neutron, and, to remind, protons, neutrons and mesons make up a nucleus. At the primordial epoch, the universe, strange as it may sound, must have consisted of quarks, gluons, electrons and photons (light particles).

There are many more fundamental questions which will be addressed by the experiments designed for the LHC. For instance, the tantalizing possibility of discovering the Higgs Boson, the missing link of the most fundamental theory of particle physics, the standard model of quarks and gluons.
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Could an atom-smasher really create Armageddon? You can delve into the subject with some summer reading as well as a real-life court case.

The next month should see further action in the doomsday lawsuit filed in March – the one claiming that mini-black holes from Europe’s Large Hadron Collider could destroy the world. The plaintiffs in the case, Luis Sancho and Walter Wagner, want the CERN particle-physics center to put the $8 billion project on hold until more questions about such a scenario (and others) are answered to their satisfaction.

The federal government (that is, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and DOE-supported Fermilab) is one of the defendants in the case, and it’s been served with a summons that requires a response by June 24.
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