CERN’s Large Hadron Collider is frosty and beaming, once again, after more than a year of repairs and testing that followed the eruptive escape of liquid helium into the tunnel that houses the massive supercollider. The device has now been chilled to 1.9°K (-271°C), making it colder than deep space (2.7°K); and low-energy ions have already been beamed part way around the 27 km ring in anticipation of some high-energy collisions in about a month.
UPDATE: November 18, 2009 — After being taken off-line last month by a mere breadcrumb dropped by a passing bird, the world’s most expensive machine prepares to power up again. BBC news link.
More background on how the device works (BBC)
Related: Why the LHC won’t help us find the “god particle”
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland, was designed to create the same sort of high energy conditions that were present during the so-called “Big Bang”. Among the mysteries that Team LHC hopes to unravel: Revealing the nature of the theoretical substances known as “Dark Energy” and “Dark Matter”; confirming the existence of the Higgs Boson (or “god particle”) as predicted by the Standard Model of quantum mechanics; and determining which, if any, of the current Grand Unification Theories is correct.
With respect to the Higgs Boson (the quantum particle thought to be responsible for giving atoms their mass) as well as with much respect to Dr. Higgs, I have a problem with the concept of a quantum “god particle”. My objection has little to do with the sacrilege of the name (offered by Leon Lederman in his 1993 popular science book), but rather the notion that one particular subatomic component can be responsible for all the mass of the unity to which it belongs.
There are two absolute states of unity in the universe: the atom (chiefly represented by hydrogen) which will endure indefinitely if sequestered from the transformative traumas of fission and fusion; and the universe itself (which has reportedly been around for a very, very long time). In between these absolutes exist myriad aggregations of matter displaying varying degrees of unity, mass, homogeneity and permanence: from planets, comets, stars and galaxies, to the seeming singularity of “black holes” — but each of these is simply echoic of our atomic and universal archetypes.
From everything I’ve read (never having had the pleasure of meeting the man) Peter Higgs seems to be a learned, conscientious physicist and a bona fide gentleman. This does not, however, vaccinate him against ever having a bad idea.
So, it has to be said: The mass of the atom comes from the functional structure of the atom itself, not from a theoretical subatomic particle. Simply put, the atom is the “god particle” — and so is the Universe.
Keep up to date on LHC activities at CERN.
Filed under Reason, Science