Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Particle accelerator will recreate the Big Bang

In an effort to create a more detailed model of the early universe, scientists will let the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland perform collisions with lead ions, a positively charged version of the lead atom. This should recreate the conditions right after the Big Bang, which is commonly perceived as the start of our universe. Lead ions are chosen for the collision experiments, because earlier on, data revealed that they are able to create a so-called quark-gluon plasma. This is basically a soup of particles that are able to form the protons and neutrons that make up the core of an atom. During the Big Bang, these building blocks must have grouped together, to form atoms. The LHC will fire lead ions at higher energy than previously done, which will hopefully recreate the conditions of the Big Bang in more detail, so scientists can study the start of our universe.

The Large Hadron Collider.
A quark-gluon plasma is a non-solid form of a group of particles. Quarks are the building blocks of protons and neutrons, which are in turn building blocks of the atom core. Gluons are particles, or waves, that are used in the exchange of force and energy between quarks, much like photons are used to transfer energy between two charged particles as an electromagnetic force. We commonly associate photons, in a certain wavelength, with light.

Shortly after the explosion of the Big Bang, the universe started expanding. Because of the extremely high temperatures, the particles in the soup consisted mostly of the aforementioned quark-gluon plasma. After billions of years and many complex interactions, the universe exists in the form it does today. However, even our present universe still has its mysteries. Only 4 percent of our current universe consists of matter we can detect. The rest is dubbed dark energy, and dark matter. We know it exists because it effect on gravity and the pull on galaxies, but we can not detect it.

The Large Hadron Collidor will be doing lead ion collisions for four weeks. After that, it will shut down, to restart in March 2012 to continue with its most well-known task: finding the Higgs Boson particle. Scientists hope that the data from these four weeks of collisions will give us more insight in what happened after the Big Bang.

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