Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Breaking: Scientists, World Await Results Of Large Hadron Collider

Scientists in the U.S. and around the world as well as the average Joe and Jane non-scientist on the planet will be watching closely today when their colleagues in Switzerland flip the switch on what is being touted as the world's grandest experiment in particle physics.

If all goes according to plan, the Large Hadron Collider, a gigantic particle accelerator underground near Geneva, could re-create the very moment 13 billion years ago when scientists believe a tremendous explosion known as the "big bang" created the universe.

"It could be the most exciting thing since Einstein," said Yale Professor Paul Tipton, part of a multinational research team, including physicists at Yale that has spent years designing and building the collider.

Data collected in the coming months has the potential to lead to the discovery of new dimensions, a new understanding of time and space, or advances that could someday be applied to fields such as medicine or energy generation, said Tipton and other scientists.

Shedding light on the most basic building blocks of the universe at the moment it was born could help scientists understand what makes up the most fundamental elements of matter, which could lead to advances in medicine and other fields.

Researchers don't expect major breakthroughs immediately. The European Organization for Nuclear Research expects to propel the first beam of protons through the accelerator today, but it is expected to take several weeks to reach top speed and start beaming back data to computers watching their every move.

Tipton likened the collider to a brand-new race car that won't be driven in fifth gear for at least a few months.But even turning on the collider today has significance, said Keith Baker, a Yale physics professor who has been working on the project for 14 years.

"What happens [today] is exciting more from a social and a human point of view, and that is, a lot of people worked for a long time to make this thing work," Baker said. Some 2,300 scientists from 40 countries collaborated on the collider, work that often required bridging languages and currencies. Construction on the 17-mile long tunnel 328 feet underground began 14 years ago and has so far cost $6 billion.

Scientists hope the collider will shed light on things that have eluded researchers, Baker said, things they have been unable to see in experiments or describe with current models of understanding. For example, the way scientists understand the big bang suggests that the expansion of the universe should be slowing, Baker said, but in fact, it is expanding and accelerating outward. So they are hoping what might explain this. Similarly, researchers know nothing about what accounts for the rotation curves of galaxies, he said.

Baker and his team are searching for something called the Higgs Boson, sometimes referred to as the "God particle." Scientists have theorized that the elusive Higgs Boson, if it exists, is what gives particles mass, but researchers have not found it. Baker has hopes that if it does exist, the Large Hadron Collider will help find it.

Tipton said he doesn't expect the information to produce anything directly; it won't bring about a brighter lightbulb in the next few years, he said. But he expects major things fr
om the research. "Humans have never learned something and not used it," he said.


Sources: AP and World Net Daily

Even Google gets into the act..

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