Smashing is the fun part. Sorting the massive data is tedious and increasingly more difficult.
Image by CERN courtesy CERN, SOURCE
Higgs yay or nay? CERN kicks off 2012 harder than ever

Posted: Apr 07, 2012 04:19 pm EDT
(Tina Sjogren) When the Large Hadron Collider was fired up in 2008 the hunt was on for the sub-atomic particle Higgs boson ("God particle") which would determine the future of particle physics. Meanwhile, lawsuits were put together against the accelerator which people feared would create a black hole.

Alas, there was neither a black hole, nor a God particle. A technical glitch shut the lot down and it took another year for the high-speed shoot-out to resume.

2010 was fairly uneventful but in 2011 CERN made headlines again with an experiment apparently showing particles had traveled faster than the Speed of Light. It was another technical glitch, and the Italian professor who led the experiment resigned last month.

As for the Higgs, there are traces but not yet yay or nay. This could be the year for it. Kicking off 2012, the Large Hadron Collider is smashing at 15 percent more energy.

If nay, we'll have to rethink some of our fundamental physics and devise new theories on how the Universe functions and why matter has mass. If yay, Cern will move on to extra dimensions and dark matter.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a gigantic scientific instrument near Geneva, where it spans the border between Switzerland and France about 100 m underground. It is a particle accelerator used by physicists to study the smallest known particles – the fundamental building blocks of all things. It expands our understanding from the minuscule world deep within atoms to the vastness of the Universe.

Two beams of subatomic particles called 'hadrons' – either protons or lead ions – travel in opposite directions inside the circular accelerator, gaining energy with every lap. Physicists use the LHC to recreate the conditions just after the Big Bang, by colliding the two beams head-on at very high energy. Teams of physicists from around the world analyse the particles created in the collisions using special detectors in a number of experiments dedicated to the LHC.

For decades, the Standard Model of particle physics has served physicists well as a means of understanding the fundamental laws of Nature, but it does not tell the whole story. Only experimental data using the higher energies reached by the LHC can push knowledge forward, challenging those who seek confirmation of established knowledge, and those who dare to dream beyond the paradigm.


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God particle update: next attempt in summer 2009.
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