BOOM! Grab your ankles. Image: CERN.
Forward-looking scientists eager to learn more about the moments directly after the creation of the universe have taken another step towards enlightenment this week after they created a mini-Big Bang within the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
Generating a burst of heat around a million times greater than the Sun’s core, the groundbreaking event took place when streams of lead ions were successfully smashed together deep inside the world’s largest particle accelerator, which is buried beneath the borders of Switzerland and France.
“We are thrilled with the experiment,” enthused project scientist Dr. David Evans. “The collisions generated the highest temperatures and densities ever achieved in an experiment.”
“At these temperatures even protons and neutrons, which make up the nuclei of atoms, melt resulting in a hot dense soup of quarks and gluons known as a quark-gluon plasma,” he added.
While this first batch of collisions has certainly lifted the spirits of those housed at the collider’s CERN facility just outside of Geneva, project officials have said the event will need to be repeated many millions of times in order to allow scientists to properly analyse and understand the resulting data.
According to Dr. Evans, some LHC research will garner results in a matter of weeks. However, the majority of the scientific data analysis will likely take months and years to sift through.
Prior to this week’s clear success, the giant collider—which was initially powered up in late 2008 after some 20 years of development and construction—had been hit by various damaging malfunctions that delayed its full operation.
Its very existence also caused knee-jerk reactionaries to label the accelerator as something of a doomsday machine capable of creating black holes that would destroy the planet.
The $4 billion USD Large Hadron Collider covers a whopping 27 kilometres and is able to ram atomic particles together within its giant detector chambers at astounding velocities approaching the speed of light.