The Day After Tomorrow

As I'm sure everyone must be aware by now, on the day after tomorrow the Large Hadron Collider will have its first circulating beam of protons.

The LHC is based at CERN - birth place of the world wide web - and has involved a huge number of scientists from a huge range of countries working for many years to construct. It marks the next step in the ability of particle physicists to test the "standard model" of particle physics. The standard model is just the idea that everything is made up of six quarks (up, down, top, bottom, strange and charm), six leptons (mu, tau and electron neutrinos and their anti versions) and the four known force carriers (the wonderfully named bosons).

Wednesday will be a landmark in getting the LHC up to its full energies but it still won't be up to maximum. The press release says that the injection energy will be 450 GeV on Wednesday. For those that haven't a clue what an electron Volt is, 450 GeV is equivalent to about 0.00000007 Joules of energy. The target energy for 2008 is 5 TeV; 11 times the initial energy on Wednesday.

These amounts of energy are impressive for sub atomic particle collisions in the laboratory but not by nature's standards. People tend to forget that nature produces some stupendously high energy particle collisions in our atmosphere. The LHC will be wimpy by those energies but gives us a really fancy, top-of-the-range 'camera' all ready to record the few really interesting collisions that will help to test the standard model and show if the Higgs Boson actually exists. I can't wait for the results but they'll take a while to emerge.

To keep up-to-date you can check out the CERN site and the CERN twitter feed. Meanwhile, I'll just add some Particle Zoo plush toys to my wish list.

Tags: |
Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Monday 08th Sep 2008 (23:31 BST) | Permalink
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]