Wednesday, September 10, 2008

LHC: Higgs and Hubs

Beam me up Scotty

Today is a hail from a different verse. It's not from the one of the virtual worlds of the metaverse, nor even a representation, a shade of our own in the paraverse, but hypothetically a glance back into the birth of our own universe: It's the first LHC beam day at CERN, the European Institute for Nuclear Research.

I received updates of the first beam-day through @CERN on twitter:

  • It's LHC first beam day. Beams at the door of the LHC, ready for first injection. http://lhc-first-beam.web.cern.ch/lhc-first-beam/...
  • 9:30. First beam injected and stopped at 1/8 of a circuit. Loud applause in the control room.
  • 10:00 The beam has now done half a lap. Still going well. This is the big moment. Next injection should one full circuit.
  • 10:25, 10 September 2008. Historic moment. The LHC first beam has just circulated. Amazing moment.
  • 13:55, the LHC's second beam is now on its way.
  • 15:02, that's it. Second beam all the way round and the LHC is up and running.

The big question is, what's so special about this LHC, or Large Hadron Collider in full. The LHC is a 27 km. tube circling around (or actually under) Geneva where 9.000 scientists at Cern pull a stunt with boosting a particle beam almost at the speed of light. The particles should round the circle about 10.000 times per second, so it's over before you know it even started.

The thing is, it costs over 6 billion and it took 30 years to build this thing which has all sorts of nice gadgets, like the Atlas, a snappy photocamera which makes about a million snapshots per second to try and 'capture' particles crashing into eachother. Does this make sense to you? Well here's a little cartoon to explain a little more.

Today was first beam day, so only one particle beam was shot, it'll take some time before they actually start shooting beams at eachother, but expectations are that what happens then either resembles armageddon or the start of the galaxy, just after the 'big bang'. Problem is, they don't have verified testdata on how stuff looked like back then.

Higgs and Hubs

One of the key elements scientists will be seeking is the mysterious socalled Higgs-particle (dubbed the 'god-particle' by some) which should be the basic building block for all matter in the universe. Every self-respecting Physicists will be examining testdata from the LHC in the coming years, and they're estimating several Petabytes of data will be pumped round the world a year. Central distribution point for every non-European institute will be the Netherlands:


But we'll have to wait and see if there still will be the Netherlands, as some see doomsday coming when CERN actually starts crashing beams. Some say there's a risk, that when the beams collide a black hole will start to form in Geneva. Here's Dr. Kenneth Hicks view on things:

"I have been asked by friends if the LHC poses a threat to mankind. Some scientists have predicted that miniature black holes could be produced when so much mass is created in such a small volume by the collision of two high-speed protons.

Mother Nature can answer this speculation. So-called "cosmic rays" constantly pelt Earth. These rays actually are high-energy protons accelerated to high speeds by galactic forces, such as supernova explosions.

While the exact physical mechanism that ramps up cosmic rays to nearly the speed of light is unclear, the fact remains that some cosmic rays can exceed the speeds of even our most powerful accelerators.

Such rays are rare, but they do hit Earth.

Nature has been colliding protons all along at energies that exceed those created by particle accelerators. Miniature black holes might gobble up Earth in a science-fiction movie, but not in real life.

The advantage of the LHC is that protons can be collided in a controlled way, surrounded by huge particle detectors. The goal is to probe a new range of matter and perhaps discover new forms of matter.

Many particle physicists are expecting to see a new type of matter at the LHC, called super-symmetric particles. It is possible that the lightest of these particles might be connected to the dark matter of the universe.

If these new particles are discovered, they might explain the subatomic structure of dark matter."

Read the full article at the Columbus Dispatch.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous SHC said...

News about the SHC
http://shc.dub.ie

Thursday, October 02, 2008 4:51:00 PM  
Blogger VeeJay Burns said...

Explanation to the above comment: TheSHC is the The Small Hadron Collider. Quite Funny

Thursday, October 02, 2008 7:18:00 PM  

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