Scientists search for missing mass, `God particle'

12:12, 10 September 2008
Science and IT
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The world`s biggest magnetic loop powered up today

The world`s biggest magnetic loop powered up today outside Geneva in a quest to understand the beginning of time and find the missing mass created by the so- called Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago, according to Bloomberg.

Scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research aim to find some of the 96 percent of the universe`s missing building materials. They have created conditions as close as possible to the event known as Big Bang, including temperatures colder than outer space, in which particles traveling in opposite directions at near light-speed have been set on a collision course.

Physicists say they hope to prove within two years the existence of a particle that creates dark matter, part of the mass that went missing at the beginning of time.

The work behind the 27-kilometer long (16 mile) magnetic loop buried 100 meters (328 feet) under ground may prove the existence of the Higgs boson particle, which theory says gives other particles properties like mass. Its importance has earned it the nickname the God particle.

As the first beams of protons begin to lap at 11,000 revolutions a second, the resulting collisions may help explain the building materials of about a fifth of the missing universe. They may also reveal what so-called dark energy is and why the expansion of the universe is accelerating instead of slowing, as predicted by theory.

Beams were injected into the loop, known as the Large Hadron Collider, stage by stage around its circumference today. The LHC has two parallel tubes carrying the bundles of particles in opposite directions. At minus 271 degrees Celsius (minus 456 degrees Fahrenheit), the LHC is also the world`s biggest fridge.

Looping Beams

One of the four experiments round the loop ``have seen some beautiful tracks coming off`` the first beams, said Lyn Evans, project leader of the LHC, speaking on a Web cast from the control center at CERN, the French acronym by which the center is known.

In generating an environment that resembles conditions one thousandth of a millionth of a second after the start of time and the creation of all the universe`s building material, CERN will be inundated with data from the observations.

Within a year, the particle accelerator`s four experiments, one of which involves equipment weighing 7,000 metric tons or the equivalent of a five-story subterranean Eiffel Tower, will have spewed enough data to fill a pile of compact discs 12 miles high.

While the spin-offs for technologies used in the 6 billion Swiss franc ($5.3 billion) experiments may not be immediately obvious, applications from other particle physics research include three-dimensional hospital scanners and non-invasive surgery, which will improve as a result of CERN`s work.

The CERN complex, funded by governments including the U.S., and spread over the Swiss and French border, is where one alumni, Tim Berners-Lee, invented the first World Wide Web browser in 1989 to help physicists all over the globe better swap notes.

Bloomberg

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