Photo of LHC via flickr by poluz
March 30, 2010: Today, scientists at the Large Hadron Collider managed to make two proton beams collide at high energy, marking a “new territory” in physics, according to CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.
The $10 billion research tool has been accelerating the beams since November 2009 in the LHC’s 17-mile tunnel on the border of Switzerland and France.
The beams have routinely been circulating at 3.5 TeV, or teraelectron volts, the highest energy achieved at the LHC so far, according to CERN.
Experiments at the LHC may help answer fundamental questions such as why Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity—which describes the world on a large scale— doesn’t jibe with quantum mechanics, which deals with matter far too small to see.
The collider may help scientists discover new properties of nature, in search of the as-yet theoretical Higgs boson, also called “the God particle” in popular parlance, believed to give matter its mass.
In an emotional live webcast from CERN today, the physicists at CERN and Tokyo explained the importance of this event and the unknowns that will be answered:
1. Understand the start of our universe: will be able to study metric of very early universe, get a tiny piece of ‘primordial soup’ of when the universe first started right after the Big Bang.
2. Study dark matter, the composition of about 25% of our universe.
3. The Higgs boson particle, the origin of mass and what gives substance to our universe, including the surrounding components, the evidence of supersymmetry—the idea that every particle has a “super partner” with similar properties in a quantum dimension (according to some physics theories, there are hidden dimensions in the universe).
The overall sentiment during the live webcast was the hope to have a new theory of physics, to open a completely new world where we will be “mapping the unknown.” As for the next process, there are over 100 physicists worldwide who are currently analyzing the data from today. According to one physicist in Tokyo, “stay tuned.”
via CNN and LHC First Physics Webcast
In a 2002 Sputnik Observatory interview at the Geneva, Switzerland headquarters of CERN, Rolf Landua, a CERN physicist, explained the Higgs boson particle and its importance to the existence of our universe:
“The Higgs particle may be responsible for the fact that there is the existence of a material world. The Higgs is the particle which physicists believe is a responsible for giving mass first of all to particles themselves and finally to us. So that prevents us from being massless ghosts which float through the universe and cannot get into the state where the universe can think about itself, so that may be a reason why people call it the ‘God particle.’ The Higgs particle is first of all, a field, and particles and fields are somehow the same thing. A field which fills all our universe everywhere, in the same way, homogeneously. It’s like an ocean if you want. We are swimming in an ocean of Higgs particles but we don’t see it. But particles feel it. So now very often the analogy is made that certain particles which are massless, they swim in a way through this Higgs universe or this Higgs ocean which is basically without any friction, and they flow through it straight through. They swim against the current, they experience friction through this Higgs field and this friction is what we call inertia and inertia is what we call mass. And that is basically the underlying concept. Now we believe that we can excite this Higgs field in a way that Higgs particles are produced. That the field manifests itself through the quantum, this Higgs particle, and that could be done here at CERN and we could observe it here with our detectors. and that would be the direct proof that this particle exists. For the time being, it is a mathematical concept which allows in a consistent way to give mass to particles. Because if this particle didn’t exist and nothing of a similar kind, we would not know why there is mass at all or why there is inertia at all in the universe. So this particle is extremely important to find. We can’t see it of course, but our universe is full of all kinds of fields and all kinds of particles. Those which make up our material world and those which are called factor vacuum fluctuations and all these fields which exist, fill the universe with some kind of soup. And the Higgs particle is one of those. But it has as its most direct consequence, which we can observe, namely inertia and mass which keeps us on our seats.”