Watch the sky this summer: there is the Big Bang out there

Big Science will get even bigger this Summer, with the start in late  August, in Geneva, of perhaps the widest experiment ever, Mental Experiments excluded (in them, you can imagine another Earth, another universe …). For sure by far the largest cryogenic project in history, with the new CERN’s LHC close to absolute zero.

The FT – Financial Times reports.

Little Big Bang to redefine physics

By Clive Cookson in Barcelona

Published: July 21 2008 23:49 | Last updated: July 21 2008 23:49

The world’s biggest scientific experiment, designed to re-create in miniature the conditions of the early universe shortly after the Big Bang 14bn years ago, is scheduled to start in late August.

Cern, the European particle physics centre outside Geneva, will send the first beam of hydrogen nuclei (protons) around the 27km circular tunnel of its new atom smasher, the $8bn (€5bn, £4bn) Large Hadron Collider (LHC), at almost the speed of light.

Lyn Evans, project leader, told the EuroScience Open Forum in Barcelona that the LHC’s first collisions would follow seven or eight weeks later, in early autumn, when Cern races two beams round the tunnel in opposite directions and smashes them together.

Physicists expect these super-energetic collisions between protons – and later between far heavier lead nuclei – to produce a cornucopia of subatomic particles never before seen on Earth. The results will lead to new theories about the forces and particles that determine the destiny of the universe. (…)

Fabiola Gianotti, a senior Cern scientist, told the meeting that “new physics” – manifestations of particles and forces never observed before – might show up almost as soon as the LHC starts, though researchers would probably need at least six months of observations at the experiment’s four giant particle detectors before they could confidently go public with their discoveries.

The likely discovery of the Higgs particle, which is posited to give matter its mass, has received most attention. But according to Ms Gianotti, the experiment’s first significant scientific achievement will probably be to prove or disprove “supersymmetry” – the theory that every subatomic particle has a far heavier partner or “superparticle”.


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