Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Scientists to Probe Beginning of Time, Big Bang's Missing Mass

By Warren Giles
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Sept. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Scientists tomorrow will take a step closer to understanding the beginning of time when the European Organization for Nuclear Research powers up the world's biggest magnetic loop in the search for the universe's missing matter.

Particle physicists on the outskirts of Geneva are trying to find out what most of the universe is made of, and where it is, because most of the matter created in the ``Big Bang'' 13.7 billion years ago has disappeared. Adding up all the stars, planets, and black holes in the universe only accounts for about 4 percent of all the mass created when time began.

After a decade of work, physicists will fire the first particles around a 27-kilometer (16 mile) long magnetic loop buried 100 meters (328 feet) under ground in a tunnel large enough for subway trains through an environment colder than outer space.

As the particles lap at close to the speed of light some will collide, triggering new particles that may also help scientists understand why the expansion of the universe is accelerating instead of slowing as predicted by theory.

``We may find a whole new family of particles that might account for the missing mass, the `dark matter' that we know must be there,'' says David Evans, a scientist who helped to build some of the electronic equipment that have one-billionth of a second to spot a collision. ``One way or another, there's a 100 percent chance we will find something new to physics.''

The unknown outcome has prompted a challenge at the European Court of Human Rights by chemist Otto Roessler, of the University of Tuebingen in Germany, to try to stop the experiment, claiming the event will create a black hole that will destroy the planet.

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