In the past couple of months I have been following the latest developments at the “CERN” laboratories just outside Geneva, Switzerland, on the border between Switzerland and France. CERN has recently started up their most ambitious project to date, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which is a 17 mile circumference particle accelerator. They are in search for “Bosons”, and especially for the infamous “Higgs Boson” which if discovered will move the science of Physics that much closer towards connecting various theories into one unified theory called a theory of everything!
Sounds pretty grand doesn’t it? Professor Peter W. Higgs, a particle physicist, who will be 81 years old in May, has devoted most of life towards the realization of his boson theory. The boson he hopes to see discovered is basically the “Glue of Life”….the thing that allows all matter in the Universe to have mass, to exist. By smashing particles together at enormously high speeds the CERN accelerator is going to be able to reproduce close to what supposedly happened at the beginning of our universe and time—during the “Big Bang”, and hopefully will produce the bosons that Professor Higgs has devoted his life towards discovering..
In 2000, CERN did in fact discover some evidence for the Higgs boson, but before they could confirm that the older accelerator was shut down to make room for the new and vastly most powerful Large Hadron Collider, which has taken almost 9 years to complete!
Well, just before Christmas, the LHC came online and successfully accelerated and collided particle beams to 1.4 TeV (teraelectronvolts) breaking all world records. On February the 14th, the accelerator will go back into action, being fired up in an attempt to increase that velocity to 7 TeV. Trillions of protons will race around the accelerator ring 11,245 times a second, which is 99.99% as fast as the speed of light! Collisions between the protons will occur at 14 TeV, creating some 600 million collisions every second!
The hope at CERN and in particular with Professor Higgs is that those collisions will produce and reveal the Higgs Boson, and if so, may very well give us a theory of everything, which is about as close as science can get towards discovering the philosophical meaning of life!
Given the nature of my website, perhaps now you can see why I might be a bit excited about all of this! There is a lot more than I have just described that I think is fascinating about CERN and the LHC experiment. There is even a bit of dooms-day speculation and mystery surrounding the potential outcome of it all—including the possibility of Black Holes being created that will suck in and destroy the earth! We will get into all of that here later!