David Kirkpatrick

September 9, 2008

Breaking down the Large Hadron Collider mission profile and factfile

Filed under: Science — Tags: , , , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 8:47 pm

I’ve blogged quite a  bit about the Large Hadron Collider, most of it centered on covering the facts — not the fear — of what’s going to happen once the first proton hits the accelerator. And speaking of hitting, you can hit this link for all my LHC blogging.

This link covers the more exciting aspects of the LHC. Namely the mission profile for the collider and some general facts about this awesome piece of machinery.

From the link:

World’s biggest atom-smasher: Mission profile

Following is a mission profile of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s biggest atom-smasher, which is due to start operations on Wednesday:

– Hunt for the HIGGS BOSON, a theorised particle that would explain why other particles have mass. Confirming the Higgs would fill a huge gap in the so-called Standard Model, the theory that summarises our present knowledge of particles. Over the years, scientists have whittled down the ranges of mass that the Higgs is likely to have. But they have lacked a machine capable of generating collisions powerful enough to to confirm whether this so-called God particle really does exist.

– Explore SUPERSYMMETRY, the notion that a whole bestiary of related but more massive particles exists beyond those in the Standard Model. Supersymmetry could explain one of the weirdest discoveries of recent years — that visible matter only accounts for some four percent of the cosmos. Dark matter (23 percent) and dark energy (73 percent) account for the rest. A popular theory is that dark matter comprises supersymmetric particles called neutralinos.

– Investigate the mystery of MATTER AND ANTI-MATTER. When energy transforms into matter, it produces a particle and its mirror image — called an anti-particle — which holds the opposite electrical charge. When particles and anti-particles collide, they annihilate each other in a small flash of energy. According to conventional theories of the cosmos, matter and anti-matter should exist in equal amounts, but the puzzle is that anti-matter is rare.

– Replicate the earliest moments after the BIG BANG that created the Universe. At its primal stage, matter existed as a sort of hot, dense soup called quark-gluon plasma. As it cooled, sub-atomic particles called quarks clumped together to form protons and neutrons and other composite particles. The LHC will smash heavy ions together, briefly generating temperatures 100,000 times hotter than the centre of the Sun and freeing quarks from their confinent. The researchers can then see how the liberated quarks aggregate to form ordinary matter.

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