The first experiments to be carried out by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN are on the horizon. Some people are frightened by this historic particle accelerator, but the science community is abuzz with anticipation and excitement. Although some of the conditions of the Big Bang will be recreated, it is important to remember a second “Bigger Bang” will not be generated – although the LHC is powerful, it’s not that powerful!
There is a rich variety of experiments that will be carried out by a variety of LHC detectors in the 27 km circumference ringed accelerator. These experiments include ATLAS, CMS, ALICE, LHCb, TOTEM, and LHCf. All have their own specific goals, but a few possible discoveries stand out as being revolutionary for particle physics and cosmology alike. I’ve written a host of articles about the LHC and I have my own personal hopes for what could be discovered, but I’d be interested to get your views too…
In August, the first tests will be carried out on the LHC. The first particle beam will be injected and accelerated, although no collisions will take place. A couple of months later, opposing beams of protons with energy of 7 TeV will collide and experiments can begin. The LHC is the largest, most powerful experiment ever constructed where the fabric of space will be probed and exotic particles will be generated. The current views we have about how the Universe works will be tested and the standard model for particle physics will be pushed to its limits. In all, it is D-Day for the classical limits we’ve imposed on quantum mechanics, and if the predictions are accurate, scientists using the LHC will revolutionize physics as a whole.
Today I wrote an article on the Universe Today about an interesting possibility for the LHC, it could produce a theorized dark matter particle, the neutralino. As the LHC is generating such a huge and focused energy, massive particles we’d never hope to detect may be generated, recreating the huge energies at the beginning of the Universe. In this case, physicists from the US hope to use data from the LHC in their model so a better idea about how dark matter is generated in the cosmos. This crossover between the physics of the very small (i.e. quantum particles) and the physics of the very big (i.e. the cosmos) is typical of what the LHC hopes to achieve.
There are many other key discoveries the LHC could make, including the observation of other dimensions, wormhole creation, “unparticles” and micro-black holes. Some of these theoretical possibilities may not happen, but some will. Ultimately, the LHC was built for the search of the elusive Higgs Boson (the only undetected particle in the “Standard Model” that gives vector bosons a mass), so you can see, this is no ordinary particle accelerator.
For the second Astroengine poll, I’d be interested to know which discovery you believe will be most likely in the possibilities I’ve explained above. Some are more plausible than others, but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt with quantum mechanics, expect the unexpected…