Whether you’ve been keeping up with Science Friday, been to The Google today, or stopped into your local online physics forum lately, you may have heard about the Large Hadron Collider — the “world’s largest atom smasher” which some said would create black holes that would gobble up the Earth. Well, first beam was today, and it appears that we are all still here.
First Beam A Success!
Despite arguments to the contrary, the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland went off today for the first time and didn’t destroy the Earth! The hype was reminiscent of Y2K, but the odds that something catastrophic was actually going to happen were even lower.
“Our standard odds are 1,000,000/1, but anyone wanting longer or shorter odds is at liberty to take them. A number of customers took us up on our offer and have bet that the world will end as a result of the Large Hadron Collider experiment.”
The world-altering particle smashing won’t fully get going until around a year or so, which means that there’s plenty of time for you to see the new Star Trek movie next May. Phwew.
First beam broadcast live from the LHC in Geneva, Switzerland
What’s The Big Deal, Anyways?
So, world-ending atom smashing is great fun and all, but who cares about the LHC? Physicists, that’s who! Specifically, those studying the properties and nature of matter. Experiments at the LHC will allow physicists to complete a journey that started with Newton’s description of gravity. Gravity acts on mass, but so far science has been unable to explain the mechanism that generates mass. These experiments will hopefully provide the answer. In addition, LHC scientists will attempt to probe the mysteries of dark matter and antimatter in the universe – visible matter seems to account for just 5% of what must exist, while about a quarter is believed to be dark matter. In order to find the reason for nature’s preference for matter over antimatter, the LCH will probe matter as it existed at the very beginning of time, the big bang.
Scientists at the LHC watch as results come in from the first beam test