Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Large Hadron Collider Finally Smashes Some Atoms!
You might not care about CERN's Large Hadron Collider that has been under construction on the Swiss/French border for over ten years, but as a dye-in-the-wool science geek, I'm excited that this collider, by far now the largest in the world smashed some hydrogen protons together this morning.
The collider is an elliptical tunnel of 17 miles in length in which atom protons are whizzed around the circuit by superconducting magnets until they are at 99.9% of the speed of light and then their paths are crossed at certain points to where the protons collide.
They then fly apart like cars in a head-on collision.
These collisions are carefully controlled to happen inside what are essentially many-layered digital cameras about the size of a three storey house and then the images are examined to see exactly what the constituent parts of these protons are.
This collider, the largest ever built, was designed to be able to hopefully see some sub-atomic parts that have long been theorized but that scientists had never had the right tools powerful enough to actually capture one's image.
For example, one sub-atomic particle, the Higgs Boson, is perfectly provable with mathematics, but in science, theory must be followed up with an actual test that allows the theories to be proven empirically, or with the five human senses.
Theoretical physicists believe the Higgs Boson to be the sub-atomic particle that causes material to have mass, and is the only particle in the present standard model of particle physics that has yet to actually be measured/seen with scientific instruments.
The initial collisions of the Large Hadron Collider that were successful today will hopefully be the first experiments that allow the physicists to make some long sought after observations.
Rock on LHC!
Yeah, I understand that probably no one reading here gives a hoot, but hey, it's my blog.