Big Bang Rebooted
The European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, is ready to give the Large Hadron Collider another run after last year’s complications. The $10 billion project is designed to tightly compact two beams of protons into hairline shapes by 1,624 large superconducting magnets, some 50 ft long. The proton beams will whiz in opposite directions through a 17-mile circular tunnel at nearly the speed of light until they are forced to collide. The goal of the groundbreaking project is to shed light on the understanding of the subatomic makeup of matter and the universe. Scientists, contributing from all corners of the globe, hope the fragments that come off the collisions will expose- on a tiny scale- what happened in the micro seconds following the so-called Big Bang.
Smaller room-temperature colliders have been experimented with for decades, but CERN’s super-sophisticated equipment houses liquid helium, used to keep the collider at a temperature colder than outer space. The collider was damaged in the first run by an electric arc that caused six tons of helium to leak out, overpowering the relief valves and adding extensive damage to the machine last year.
Regarding this delicate, expensive machine, Catherine Westfall, an American collider historian says,
“These state-of-the-art accelerator projects are one-of-a-kind devices that push the envelope. I do not for a second think the LHC is too complicated to work, that it won't work, or that it is not worth the investment. It will open new frontiers and bring us new knowledge--there is absolutely no doubt about that."
So if you awake to find yourself in a new, extraordinary dimension this weekend, there is a chance CERN’s ‘Big Bang’ machine did more then it intended to; either that or your roommates spiked you with LSD while you slept.
Image: "Atlas" by Ethan Hein on Flickr courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing.