Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Fundamental Q...

Many of us have wondered often - What is it that gives matter mass?

Matter is supposedly made of 16 elementary particles categorized as Quarks, Leptons & Force Carriers - that are together called the “standard model”. Quarks consist of protons and neutrons and make up the nuclei. Lepton consists of particles such as electrons while Force Carriers are the forces holding the atom together.

The Big Bang states that an infinitely small dense matter expanded rapidly. Gravity separated from the other forces and many new particles were formed including quarks which started to gather mass by passing through the “Higgs field”. As particles gathered mass, matter was created and eventually stars and planets started to form millions of year later.

In short scientists attribute the reason for matter having mass to the “Higgs particle”. Just one problem; unlike the particles of the std model – Higgs particles has never been discovered and this is precisely what the worlds most expensive experiment hopes to discover.

Scientists from CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), Russia, Canada, India, Japan and the United States have built a Large Hadron Collider(LHC) - a particle collider. The LHC is 27kms (17miles) in diameter and is constructed bellow the French – Swiss border. The LHC collides protons rotating in opposite direction at 99.999999% the speed of light, using superconducting magnets

The scientists hope that the proton collision will be similar to a miniaturized Big Bang which produced the elementary particles. They hope the elementary particles including the “Higgs Particle” will be formed from the collision and they can learn more about it from the traces collected by the “Particle detectors”. The Scientists also hope to learn more about Anti-matter, Micro-black holes, additional dimensions, etc.

The LHC was inaugurated on 10th Sept 2008 but was shut down due to a soldering problem which is being worked upon.

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