biggest science experiment on Earth is expected to take a big step forward on
Wednesday. As we hear from VOA's Art Chimes, an international team of
scientists is getting ready to fire up the Large Hadron Collider, even as
skeptics fear it could have disastrous consequences.
at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, better known by its French
acronym, CERN, are planning to send a beam of particles racing around the
27-kilometer ring of the Large Hadron Collider for the first time.
LHC, as it's known, is the world's most powerful particle accelerator. CERN
physicist Tejinder Virdee says it's designed to explore some of the most
fundamental questions in physics.
the end of this, it is possible that our view of nature, of how the nature
works at the fundamental level, would be altered in the same way, for example,
that Einstein had altered our view of space and time about 100 years ago,"
he said. "So the scientific results could be extremely important."
Large Hadron Collider is housed in a circular tunnel, buried under the
French-Swiss border just outside Geneva.
of subatomic protons and other particles will zip around the ring, accelerated
up to nearly the speed of light by some 1,800 superconducting magnet systems.
will reach an energy level of 7 trillion electron volts, seven times more
powerful than in any existing accelerator. The project has cost an estimated
the LHC goes into full operation, scientists will aim beams of particles
directly at each other. When particles collide — up to 600 million times a
second — special sensors will detect and record the collisions, and a network
of computers will analyze the vast amount of data generated.
designed in part to mimic conditions present at the beginning of the universe,
the Big Bang, almost 15 billion years ago.
will also be looking for a subatomic particle known as the Higgs Boson. The
Standard Model of particle physics predicts that it exists… but it has never
been seen. CERN physicist Mike Seymour says the elusive Higgs Boson has a
nickname that conveys its importance.
call it 'God's particle' because it really has a very important central role in
our whole theory of what everything is made of, of matter," Seymour
explained. "Because without the Higgs particle we wouldn't be able to
understand why any of the elementary particles have masses. The more we
discover about the Higgs mechanism, the more we will understand about the
dynamics of the early universe."
scientists and technicians prepare to send a particle beam all the way around
the LHC, some critics have wondered whether attempts to reproduce conditions at
the beginning of the universe may create a black hole that could destroy the
CERN team that studied the matter concluded there was no danger of that
happening, and lawsuits filed by opponents have not succeeded in stopping work
on the LHC.
physicist John Ellis says simply, the skeptics are wrong. "LHC is only
going to reproduce what nature does every second, it has been doing for
billions of years, and all of these astronomical bodies including the earth and
the sun, they are still here. So there really is no problem."
let's hope not. The first beam of particles is set to make that 27-kilometer
trip around the Large Hadron Collider on Wednesday.