Scientists are more than satisfied with the first tests of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in the control room of CERN (The European Organisation for Nuclear Research) near Geneva.
The world’s largest particle collider, “the most complicated scientific instrument ever built”, successfully fired two beams of protons all the way around a 27 kilometre tunnel, individually and simultaneously, in what scientists hope is the next great step towards understanding the makeup of the universe.
Felicitas Pauss is a German particle physicist:
“With the LHC high energy particle accelerator we are actually doing the fundamental archaeology of the universe itself. The collision of the particles helps us understand the physical principals of the big bang.”
The LHC will produce beams seven times more powerful than any previous machine, and around 30 times more intense when it reaches its design performance, probably by 2010. So far the beams have been stopped after just a few circuits.
When fully operational, two beams of subatomic particles will travel in opposite directions inside the circular accelerator, gaining energy with every lap until close to light speed. Studying their collision, scientists hope to collect important data, in particular vital missing pieces in particle physics theory.
James Strait is at the heart of the CERN project:
“We, over the past 30 years have put together something that we call the Standard Model of particle physics, that explains how ordinary matter works, the matter of which we’re made, at its most fundamental level, and it seems to work very well. But there are a few missing pieces that we need to find, we need to understand in order to know whether our theories are absolutely correct, and this machine is designed to answer those questions.”
Some sceptics warned a by-product of the collisions could be micro black holes, like tiny collapsed stars whose gravity is so strong they can suck in everything near them. CERN, backed by leading scientists, dismisses the fears and says the experiments are absolutely safe.