The Search for the God Particle at the Large Hadron Collider
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), built near Geneva, Switzerland, is the the world's largest and most powerful particle collider. The circular tunnel is 27 kilometers long (16.8 miles) and is about 600 feet under the ground. This massive machine has been designed to collide opposing proton beams at superhigh energy of 7 TeV. That's 7 trillion electron-volts!
The proton beams were circulated in the collider for the first time in September 2008. However, after shutting down to repair a flaw, it was reopened again in November 2009, and proton beams were successfully circulated through the tunnel once again. In early 2010, the beams were circulated at an energy level of 3.5 TeV, a world record, which is just half of the collider's designed capability, and the collision was recorded in March of that year.
The “God particle,” or Higgs boson, and the Large Hadron Collider have been a subject of both discussion and debate in recent times. Not only is the Large Hadron Collider machine and experiment getting the scientific community excited, it is also inspiring awe — and in some cases, fear — among the world's populations.
Higgs boson, better known as the “God particle,” is a theoretical subatomic particle that is, according to some, the one missing piece of our present understanding of the laws of nature, known as “the standard model of physics.” The particle is thought to be the creator of mass, that is, the creator of elementary particles. This particle is popularly referred to as the “God particle” because the origin of mass in the universe, according to the standard model, was mediated by it. Higgs boson was proposed by British physicist Peter Higgs to explain why some particles have mass, while others, such as photons, do not.
This is especially significant, as at the time of the big bang there was no mass, but only energy. Higgs's theory explains, by means of Higgs bosons and their field, how some particles escaped the Higgs field without mass, while others accumulated mass. The “God particle” is in a way the creator of matter as we know it today and hence holds the key to a number of the universe's mysteries.
To find a Higgs boson, a high-energy environment similar to that after the big bang has to be imitated, which is exactly what the LHC aims to do. The LHC experiment can prove or disprove the existence of this elusive particle, which will be revolutionary for the field of physics.
The LHC particle collision experiments at such high energies that it is expected to shed light on the mysteries of the early and the current universe. Answers to many of the baffling physical questions and issues are expected, and some of the things scientists are looking for are:
Proof of existence of Higgs boson and validation of the standard model and Higgs mechanism, which explains the origin of mass
More information about the nature of the dark matter and energy, antiparticles, and other subatomic particles
Evidence of existence of extra dimensions predicted by string theory
Controversies Surrounding the God Particle Experiment
Even before the Large Hadron Collider was fired, a number of speculations and controversies surrounded the experiment. Most of these were on account of the fact that the high-energy environment being created is getting as close as possible to simulating the birth of the universe. The fear of many is that it may just end up spelling doom for the world.
One of the biggest fears expressed by the critics of the experiment was that smashing protons at 99.9 percent of the speed of light could create small black holes, which can swell to a proportion that they might just swallow up the earth. Physicists, however, claim that no such danger is posed by the experiment, as creation of such black holes is unlikely and even if they were to be formed, they would be too unstable and disintegrate.
There continues to be a host of other similar concerns as the world being created in the LHC is an unexplored arena, one that has never been experienced or seen.