For Physicists, as Good as it Gets

September 10th, 2008 | Sources: NY Times

Subjects:

At 3:30am EST last night, physicists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research finally got to fire up the particle collider they had been building for the last decade. And since you’re alive and reading this post, some of the more outlandish theories about what would happen when they turned it on have already proven to be incorrect.

Like the one about a black hole being formed that swallows the Earth and ends life as we know it.

The Large Hadron Collider, as it is formally known, is a 17-mile track built 300 feet beneath the ground near Geneva at a cost of $8 billion. It accelerates protons to near light speed and smashes them together for the purposes of creating conditions similar that moments after the Big Bang.

Physicists around the world watched to find out what happened. Many have staked their careers on theories designed to explain what happened. Some believe the Higgs boson will appear. Others believe secrets of dark matter will be revealed. No one knew for sure.

It is known that the collider will severely test the so-called Standard Model, which is the Holy Grail for particle physicists. Apparently, this model does a good job explaining particle behavior in normal circumstances, but it is probably not going to properly explain what happens in the severe conditions generated by the collider. This would shake physics to its core, setting off an intensely creative period in which new theories are promulgated and tested.


 

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