About a decade ago, when I was young and hot! And many of you in the 90’s will recall this (the era that is) a bouncy tuned pop group called D:Ream was topping the charts with songs like ‘Things Can Only Get Better‘ and ‘You’re the Best Thing‘. Turns out that former band member Brian Cox, is now looking at making bigger waves by actually trying to re-create the Big Bang! Yeah that’s right the Big Bang of creation.
Brain was obviously a music star of some measure back in his early 20’s when he was studying science at university, but with his musical career behind him, he is now known as Professor Brian Cox the physicist. Prof. Cox is part of a collaborated complex experiment, which involves spinning beams of sub-atomic particles in opposite directions before deliberately colliding them together in an underground tunnel 27km (16.8 miles) in circumference.
The hope, of both Prof. Brian and the other 6,500 scientists from 500 research institutes in 80 countries, is to resolve one of the biggest questions in physics: how are matter and the forces of nature linked together.
By colliding a type of sub-atomic particle known as hadrons at 99.999999 per cent of the speed of light, the scientists hope to go back to the first billionth of a second after the Big Bang, when weird things happened to matter and the fundamental forces of nature. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) (as the experiment is called) is already off to a good start. Last night scientists, some in pajamas, celebrated with champagne with the first successful round of tests. But it will be weeks and months yet before they can get those sub-atomic particles to crash and then even longer before evaluations can be made.
“I’m quite a believer that science should be part of culture as well as being useful in its own right,” Professor Cox has said to media recently. You can read about some of the prickly questions that the project hopes to answer here and you can also read a nice compact PDF Booklet about the LHC here.
Many of us would be remotely interested in technical endeavours of this scale, but there are many theories as to what will result from these collisions, and what’s for sure is that a brave new world of physics will emerge from the LHC, as knowledge in particle physics goes on to describe the workings of the Universe. For decades, the Standard Model of particle physics has served physicists well as a means of understanding the fundamental laws of Nature, but it does not tell the whole story. Only experimental data using the higher energies reached by the LHC can push knowledge forward, challenging those who seek confirmation of established knowledge, and those who dare to dream beyond the paradigm.
If science has brought us the wonders of mobile phones, microwave ovens, X-Rays and possibly dance music. What new ways of doing things can we find out from this experiment? Well, I’ll leave you with the smooth lyrics of the Large Hadron Rap (above) to explain.