Monday, October 20, 2008

LHC to be continued....

So the Large Hadron Collider (LHC)- the biggest super collider ever, at over 27 KM long(!)- was switched on back in September. September 8 to be exact. This event, which is the culmination of years of research and development and upwards of $10 Bil., was heralded as a breakthrough in modern physics. Located in parts of Switzerland and France (yes it's that big), the LHC is supposed to prove the existence the elusive higgs-boson particle which gives everything its mass (this illustration dumb the concept down considerably This can only be achieved by recreating conditions similar to those shortly after the big bang. And that is exactly what scientists built
the LHC to do.

Unfortunately for us, due to a large helium leak thought to be caused by an electrical short, the massive atom smasher went off line after less than two weeks in operation. And it will most likely be out of commission until the spring of '09. I guess this is all part of the beta stage in development, but I have to admit, that after all the hype- some people went so far as to claim that it would destroy the earth- I was disappointed by this seeming anti-climax.

Make no mistake, though, finding the higgs-boson would be huge. It is believed that the discovery of this particle, which has been theorized but never observed, would offer conclusive proof to the theory of super symmetry thus completing the standard model- somewhat of a holy grail to particle physicists.

As Michael Dine, professor of physics at the Santa Cruz Institute of Particle Physics (UCSC) explains:

"Much of today's research in elementary particle physics focuses on the search for a particle called the Higgs boson. This particle is the one missing piece of our present understanding of the laws of nature, known as the Standard Model. This model describes three types of forces: electromagnetic interactions, which cause all phenomena associated with electric and magnetic fields and the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation; strong interactions, which bind atomic nuclei; and the weak nuclear force, which governs beta decay--a form of natural radioactivity--and hydrogen fusion, the source of the sun's energy. (The Standard Model does not describe the fourth force, gravity.)"

I guess spring is not all that far away when one considers the magnitude of looking into an abyss this profound.

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