What is the origin of matter? What is the universe made of? For many scientists, trying to decipher countless questions like these, can have the unusual answer: "time travel"! But let's explain. Actually, with a project this stratospheric size, worthy of the research involved in it, the CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire), has built the LHC (Large Hadron Collider), the most powerful particle accelerator in the world. Or, who knows, a time machine! Of course, not like we would see in science fiction movies. The idea is to try to discover what happened in the universe a fraction of second after the Big Bang. Because of that, this project is called "the most complicated thing ever to be built by human beings". After all, even after something like this was begun in 1993 and a 14km tunnel was built in Texas, Americans gave up facing this task alone.
But what is this time machine, actually? Simply put, it's an impressive structure, below the border between France and Switzerland, near Geneva, which is the biggest, most complex scientific instrument in the world, to date. Twenty-seven kilometers of tunnels where beams of protons will hopefully collide at 99.9% of the speed of light. Scientists, then, hope to re-create situations that haven't taken place since the Big Bang, to better understand the Universe. The force released will be able to not only distort space (just like gravity distorts the space surrounding Earth), but also time! Hence the comparison with a time machine.
As stated by a research published by Irina Arefieva and Igor Volovich: "in general relativity, a time-like curve in space-time will run from past to future. But in some space-times the curves can intersect themselves, giving a closed-like curve, which is interpreted as a time machine - which suggests the possibility of time travel"
Two protons will travel in opposite directions and collide in four points along the way - re-creating the conditions of the Big Bang, "the cosmic plasma", a mysterious, almost liquid state, which occured before the quarks were cool enough to allow the formation of atoms. The particle accelerator will force quarks to seperate themselves and re-create original "cosmic plasma"! Can this be possible?!
In the gigantic tunnel, in different points, there are caverns crammed with 4 detectors the size of buildings. They are: Atlas, CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid), LHCb and Alice (A Large Ion Collider Experiment). Just one superconducting solenoid (CMS) contains in it more iron than the Eiffel Tower.
Determination, commitment and dedication is abundant and, also, money. A lot of money. Take a look at some quick facts about the project:
• 20-year work-in-progress;
• A team of 7,000 physicists from more than 80 nations;
• 27 kilometers in circumference, 175 meters underground;
• Each tunnel is big enough to run a train through it;
• temperatures generated: more than 1000,000 times hotter than the sun's core;
• Superconducting magnets are cooled to a temperature colder than in deep space.
The dimension of the LHC is amazing, just like the way of dealing with all the data it will produce. When it begins working, the CERN will register one percent of all the information that is generated in the planet: 15 petabytes or 15 million gigabytes of data a year. How to process all of this?!
Here starts a new stage in Internet: the Grid! HP was the first commercial corporation to take this technology to the LHC Computing Grid (LCG) in CERN - a Grid of epic proportions. The HP Labs and the HP University Relations Programme are collaborating with the CERN Openlab to develop softwares and hardwares for the Grid. It will not only share information, but will also have storage and computing capacity, meaning scientists from anywhere in the world can connect to the Grid on their personal computers and have access to calculations made by machines all over the world. The task, although hard, has the CERN's know-how, which includes the www inventor.
Among the countless surprises scientists are expecting to witness with the LHC are a Medium-sized Bang or a bad-mannered black hole. However, these concerns are put to rest by CERN scientists. They assure us that "even if black holes will be produced, they will be too small and too short-lived to generate a strong gravitational force." In other words, Geneva is not going to get sucked into anything cosmologically weird.
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