Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Big News About the Littlest Things

At the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, on the outskirts of Geneva, scientists have started the Large Hadron Collider, a huge particle smashing machine meant to recreate the conditions of the Big Bang. Scientist hope to learn more about why particles have mass, dark matter and whether there are hidden dimensions in the universe.
There have been some obstacles to the 27km long, $9 billion dollar machine. Due to the complexity of manufacturing, the start and completion dates were pushed back 2 years and construction costs ended up being 25% higher than the 1996 budget. In March, a lawsuit was filed attempting to stop the experiment until it could be proved that the LHC would be safe. What were they afraid of ? That the LHC would create tiny black holes that would suck us into them and destroy us all. Scientists were more afraid of technical glitches or electronic failure.

But today the LHC came to life. Scientists applauded as they sent particle beams in both directions through the machines chamber. Now the fun begins!

One of the things they wish to accomplish is to prove or disprove the existence of Higgs boson particles. While proposed in 1964 by Scottish scientist Peter Higgs, it has never been observed. It is thought to give mass to matter. Scientists are a funny bunch, though. Dr Aldo Saavedra, a particle physicist at the University of Sydney has been toward this experiment for 10 years. In the scientific community it would define his career. Yet, he'd rather find something else.
"It's not much fun if you actually go and look for something that theories have been predicting for the last 10 years," he said.

Even British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking is looking for more of a challenge. He has bet $100 that the LHC will not find the Higgs boson.
"I think it will be much more exciting if we don't find the Higgs. That will show something is wrong, and we need to think again," Professor Hawking said.

Those scientists are wacky that way.

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