"How was the Universe, a billionth of a second after the Big Bang?"

Often, we heard / used the phrase "Billion $ Question" to hype the significance of something. But there exists a question in reality that is even costlier than this phrase. A 5 Billion $ Question - the one which you read at the top of this post. Wondering? Let us go some what deeper into physics (nearly 175 m).

To get an answer to this question, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN - a french acronym) is doing an experiment - smashing protons moving at 99.999999% of the speed of light into each other inside the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) built in a circular tunnel of 27 km circumference (called LHC Ring) buried underground (at 50 to 175 m depth) in the Swiss - French borders on the outskirts of Geneva.

Today (10 September 2008) they circulated the first beam of proton into the LHC ring at 08:32 AM GMT and the control room at the CERN laboratory erupted into cheers at 09:25 AM GMT, when a pair of dots on a computer screen showed that a beam of particles had successfully completed its first lap of the LHC ring. A lot of dreams - Supersymmetry, Dark matter, Higgs Boson, Extra dimensions, Black holes, Antimatter etc. are wavering in their "Hurray".

The beams move at an energy of 7 TeV per beam around the LHC ring inside a continuous vacuum guided by magnets. The magnets are superconducting (hence zero resistance) and are cooled by a huge cryogenics system. During this time collisions take place. All these are to recreate the conditions and the adjacent events of a fraction of a second after the big bang.

The first collisions are expected about a month later and the first results from the experiments will be unveiled on 21 October 2008. This is the biggest and most expensive civilian experiment in the history of science and mankind, involving over 8000 physicists from over 85 countries as well as hundreds of universities and laboratories. The evolution of Science happens always at a very high-cost.

Also, Two teams of scientists from India are participating in this research. One headed by TIFR, doing CMS experiment, includes scientists from BARC, Delhi, Punjab and Vishwa Bharati universities. The other one, led by VECC/SINP (Kolkata) is in the ALICE experiment along with IOP, IITB, Jammu, Rajasthan, Aligarh and Punjab universities.

Prof. Raghav Verma of IIT, Mumbai and Atul Gurtu of TIFR, representing the two Indian scientists team, have carried an Indian flag to CERN. To symboloise our deep philosophical understanding of the universe, India donated CERN, a giant bronze statue of Natraja - Lord Shiva performing his dance of cosmic creation and destruction (Remember Fritjof Capra's famous book, "Tao of Physics").

Although some people (including scientists) and press have questioned the safety of the planned experiments ("A Wednesday. Will the world survive it?", "Will the Large Hadron Collide Destroy Earth?" etc.), the consensus in the scientific community is that there is no basis for any conceivable threat from the LHC particle collisions (Look at today's Google Doodle).

Stephen Hawking, the renowned physicist in this area says "The world will not come to an end when the LHC turns on, the LHC is absolutely safe. Whatever the LHC finds or fails to find, the results will tell us a lot about the structure of the universe. If the human race can not afford this, then it doesn't deserve the epithet 'human'" (Our ex-president APJ Abdul Kalam also commented positive about this - he visted the laboratory during his Switerland travel in 2005).

On lighter side, here are some interesting facts about the LHC:
  • Part of the LHC will be the world's largest fridge (It could hold 150,000 fridge full of sausages at a temperature colder than deep outer space).
  • The combined strands of the superconducting cable being produced for the LHC would go around the equator of the earth 6.8 times.
  • The vacuum in the LHC is comparable to outer space (If it were a car tyre with a leak, it would take 10,000 years to go flat).
  • When the 27km long circular tunnel was excavated between lake Geneva and the Jura mountain range, the two ends met up with just 1cm of error.
  • A nominal proton beam in the LHC will have an energy equivalent to a person in a Subaru automobile car driving at 1700 kph.

'The Guardian' magazine ("the world's leading liberal voice") from UK says "Particle physics is the unbelievable in pursuit of the unimaginable. To pinpoint the smallest fragments of the universe you have to build the biggest machine in the world. To recreate the first millionths of a second of creation you have to focus energy on an awesome scale."

Will they get the "God Particle"? God only knows!


Unknown said…
Good work in terms of xplanation of d happening....
Unknown said…
Good work in terms of detailed xplanation.

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