Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Scientists start 'big bang machine'
The project hopes to observe a paricle known as a Higgs Boson, or a 'God particle' [AFP]
Scientists in Switzerland have started up a machine designed to accelerate sub-atomic particles to nearly the speed of light and then smash them into each other in a bid to find out how the universe began.
The project began operations on Wednesday, but its critics fear that it could go wrong and create a black hole that would destroy the Earth.
The Large Hadron Collider, housed in a tunnel 100 metres below ground straddling the French-Swiss border, has cost more than $5.4bn and has been almost two decades in the making.
Two thousand scientists from around the world have worked on the project which hopes to observe a particle known as a Higgs Boson, or a "God particle", that scientists hope will explain how particles pick up mass.
The Higgs was named after Peter Higgs, a British physicist who devised the theory of its existence in 1964.
The collider will send protons in opposite directions along a 27km circuit - the protons will travel the 27km 11,000 times per second - and at four points the protons will intersect and smash together.
Scientists will monitor the collisions and collect data on the particles created by these collisions, which they say will come close to re-enacting the "big bang" - the theory that a colossal explosion created the universe.
The project could also help prove the theory of supersymmetry, a theory in particle physics that suggests every particle has a corresponding partner particle.
The collider began work at 9.30am local time (0730 GMT) with the first protons injected into the 27km, ring-shaped tunnel at the headquarters of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern).
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