Skip to comments.A vast cavern is the stage for tests to find the 'God particle'
Posted on 06/09/2003 6:11:13 AM PDT by andy224
Atlas holds key to scientists' map of Universe By Mark Henderson A vast cavern is the stage for tests to find the 'God particle'
SCIENTISTS have taken a step closer to finding the God particle that is thought to shape the Universe. In a concrete cavern 130ft deep and bigger than the nave of Canterbury Cathedral, they will mimic the high-energy conditions that existed fractions of a second after the Big Bang to study a beam of energy a quarter of the thickness of a human hair.
The vast Atlas cavern, which was completed last week at Cern, the European nuclear physics laboratory on the Franco-Swiss border, will house parts of a giant atom-smasher that is expected to solve the most elusive riddle in physics.
When the £1.5 billion Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is switched on in 2007, it will determine once and for all whether the Higgs boson, a mysterious fundamental particle held to give matter its mass, really exists. If the machine finds the boson, proposed by Professor Peter Higgs of Edinburgh University in 1964, it will prove that the Standard Model for the nature of the Universe is correct. If not, the maxims of modern physics will be thrown into disarray.
The boson was nicknamed the God particle by the Nobel laureate Leon Lederman for its centrality to the cosmos. Although it will be so small that its presence can only be calculated, not seen, the search for it requires some of the largest and most advanced scientific instruments designed.
The LHC itself is a ring 17 miles (27km) in circumference, buried up to 100m (330ft) underground, through which streams of protons will be bent by the worlds most powerful magnets and smashed into each other at close to the speed of light.
The new cavern, which will house the Atlas detector for tracking the Higgs and other particles, is 40m (130ft) deep, 55m (180ft) long and 35m (115ft) wide.
However, the proton beam that runs through both devices measures just 10 microns in diameter: less than a quarter of the thickness of the average human hair. Roger Cashmore, a British physicist and Cerns director of research, said: It is an astonishing feat of engineering. The consultants were on the verge of saying it was impossible to build. But the Atlas cavern is finished, the biggest of its kind in the world, and these experiments are going to tell us whether were right about the Universe.
The current best guide to the nature of the Universe is the Standard Model, an elegant theory that describes how most particles and forces interact. The Higgs boson is its missing keystone: without it, there is no good explanation for why matter has mass and therefore exists.
According to the theory, the Universe is permeated by a field of Higgs bosons, which consist of mass but very little else. As particles move through the field, they interact with it like a ball dropped into a tub of treacle, getting slower, stickier and heavier. Their ultimate mass depends on the strength of the interaction.
Though mathematics predicts its existence, the Higgs boson has never been detected. It is so heavy that the biggest atom-smashers, Cerns Large Electron-Positron collider (LEP) and the Tevatron at Fermilab in Illinois, have been unable to generate the high energy collisions needed to reveal it, although they have found hints that it is probably there. This is where the LHC comes in. It is 70 times as powerful as the LEP and seven times stronger than the Tevatron, covering all the energy values at which the Higgs might exist. If it is there, it will find it.
What is more, if the God particle proves to be a false deity, the LHC will unlock the secret of what is out there instead. If it doesnt find the Higgs, it will find what substitutes for it, Dr Cashmore said.
Jim Virdee, Professor of Physics at Imperial College, London, and a leading Cern researcher, said: There has to be something else, beyond what we have found already, that explains mass. We believe its the Higgs, but Nature may be smarter than us. Either way, the results will tell us what is the right road.
The atom-smasher will accelerate protons so close to the speed of light that they become 7,000 times heavier than normal. The beams are bent into a circle by superconducting magnets, cooled by liquid helium at -271.4C, almost a degree colder than outer space.
When the protons collide, they are destroyed in a huge burst of energy. This energy coalesces into very heavy particles, one of which scientists hope will be the Higgs.
As the boson is unstable, it will quickly decay, scattering a characteristic signature of smaller particles and energy. These will be picked up by the LHCs eyes the Atlas and a sister detector which surround the collision points.
The detectors, which stand 22m (72ft) and 15m (49ft) tall respectively, are giant microscopes built like onions, with several layers of instruments that track particles and measure energy.
The experiments will generate enormous quantities of data, much of it unwanted. Colliding two protons is like colliding two oranges, Dr Lyn Evans, director of the LHC project, said. Youll occasionally get a collision between two pips, the interesting bits, but youll get a lot of pulp. We need to reject an enormous amount of data to pick out the important bits. Professor Virdee said that the data generated in one second was the equivalent of what all the worlds telecommunications generated in one year.
Even if this wealth of information proves the existence of the Higgs boson, the LHC will continue to serve scientific knowledge for decades.
Lets say we have the Higgs, Dr Cashmore said. Id feel warm and content for a few microseconds, then Id be asking new questions. Why does it affect different particles in different ways? It would be spectacularly good to find it Im not trying to knock it but it will pose a whole new set of problems. If we are an inquisitive society, these are the things we ought to be doing."
Goedel's Incompleteness Theorem proves that we will never be able to completely understand the universe.
So what's the point? </sarcasm>
I'll be back later to read the comments of the offended.
The classical proof of the Incompleteness Theorem involves:
Fascinating stuff, but applicable only to the rigidly formal systems of mathematics, in which a proof is a highly specific entity with a prescribed form.
I know, mathematics is too tiresome for a Monday morning...(tee hee)
Freedom, Wealth, and Peace,
Francis W. Porretto
Visit The Palace Of Reason:
"In other news, once the detector is up and running, researchers are planning to send Hillary Clinton's new book through and see if even the remotest possibility of truth is found in it."
You have FReepmail.
Yes, but just one of many in this amazing multiverse. ;^)
...within any rigidly logical mathematical system there are propositions (or questions) that cannot be proved or disproved on the basis of the axioms within that system and that, therefore, it is uncertain that the basic axioms of arithmetic will not give rise to contradictions.
Right Wing Prof is opus'ed and gone? ALS and conservababblerJen are still able to delete threads by wandering in, pooping in the punchbowl, and screaming in faces? This really bites bad!
I'm thinking along the lines of using the word "God" and the general origins of the universe stuff. Usually a few creationists happen along a bemoan the waste of money at something so silly.