I learned a lot at CERN. Being there, hearing the stories, seeing the incredible machines and asking my questions, helped me to get to the following understandings. Please correct me if im wrong!!
Some theory: all (visible) matter (which is only 4% of our universe though!)
is made out of molecules, which are made out of atoms, which consist of a nucleus (protons and neutrons) and electrons. The electrons are negatively charged, the neutron is neutral, and the proton is positively charged. The Large Hadron Collider at CERN uses protons, because you need a charged particle to be able to accelerate particles close to the speed of light. Only particles with no mass can actually reach the speed of light. When particles attain mass, they slow down. And nowadays it is said that particles obtain mass through their interaction with the higgs-field, a little like swimming through honey. The honey sticks on you and slows you down. With the slowing down, temperatures also get colder.
The LHC is the biggest and most powerfull particle accelator in the world, installed in a 27 km tunnel 50-150 meter below ground. It is build to study particle collissions at higher energies than ever before (up to 99.9% the speed of light), hoping to find things that will help us understand the universe and how it came to be.
The LHC had some problems at the start-up though, and only highly necessary repairs were done. They were in a hurry, because there was a race with the US, who would find the Higgs boson first. The LHC could not reach it’s full potential, but was nevertheless able to discover the Higgs Boson in 2012, being approved by both the CMS and ATLAS detector, finding evidence of the boson having a mass around 126 GeV. A Nobel Prize was awarded 🙂
Immediately after this confirmation, the LHC was closed for major repair and maintenance, only to reopen some two weeks ago. Running at full speed now, it is, among other things, searching for extra dimensions of space, unification of fundamentalistic forces and string theory.
These are exciting times! It takes a couple of weeks to get the superconducting magnets at the appropriate extremely low temperature (the LHC’s niobium-titanium magnets operate at a temperature of 1.9 Kelvin or -271 Celcius) and it will take years before we can say something about the first results after analyzing all the data. The low temperature is needed to conduct electricity without resistance as to create the strongest magnetic fields possible.
By the way, the world wide web was invented here at CERN, as a means to distribute, store and analyse all the data. It changed our world completely!
So how does the LHC work? I asked the lady ‘how the hell do you get a proton out of an atom’? Pff that’s easy, she told me, you just take a hydrogen atom, which exists of only one electron and one proton and you ionize it, that’s it! You get rid of the negatively charged electron and just use the positively charged proton. You speed it up with switching on and off the electric fields,
before spanning it around a circular tube, accelerated by electric fields and guided by big magnets and you end up with a beam of protons, ready to enter the LHC. With every turn it picks up more speed. One beam going one direction, another the opposite. They collide in four detectors, each running their own experiments: ATLAS, ALICE, CMS and LHCb. ATLAS being the only one situated in Switzerland, the rest is in France.
The LHC generates up to 6000 million collissions per second. That’s a lot of data to analyse!
One beam can be used up to ten hours, then all the particles get absorbered and new beams are created. To get enough protons there is only need for a very very small portion of hydrogen. This bottle shows the actual size that is used at CERN.
Of course, also other beams are created, including high energy muons to study the structure of the proton, heavy ions to form new states of matter, and radioactive ion beams to observe exotic nuclei.
The energetic collissions produce many new particles, as energy turns into matter in accordance with Einstein’s E=mc2, where E stands for energy, m for mass and c for the speed of light.
So far quantum physics found out that all Hadrons (like protons and neutrons) are made out of quarks, held together by gluons. There are different tastes of quarks. So a proton consists of two up and one down quark and a neutron consists of two down and one up quark. There are others as well, like strange, charm, top and bottom,… Crazy names right?
I was happy to discover another subelimantary particle at the supermarket!
And only 75 cents!
Makes me think of the very creative names cosmologists gave their telescopes, like the very large telescope and the extremely large telescope in Chili. Funny scientists 🙂 ah yeah and they have great names for the forces as well. There are four: gravity, electromagnetism and.. the strong force and the weak force. Impressive! Gravity being the weakest force of all, which might be because it comes from another dimensions… Whoohh. Like an exciting children book.
Each force has their carrier:
So now it becomes a comic. Keeps getting better and better 🙂
Were searching for things, well actually were not sure what were looking for or what it means if we find something.
We do know the future will have something to do with quarks. Enough evidence confirms the existence of quarks, but we didnt find a way to separate them just yet. Maybe with the full potential of the LHC well be able to do it!
In a couple of years well get results, the LHC will close again and well be able to visit the underground area 😀 mark my words, ill be back! In the meantime were working on a 100 km LHC.. Are you fricking kidding me?! I like this insane world 🙂