In search of God particle, atoms smashed at record speed
Geneva: Replicating conditions preceding the
Big Bang that formed the universe, scientists at the world`s
biggest atom smasher here today collided two proton beams into
each other at record speeds that could herald a new era of
"We are on the threshold of a new era of science and if
we are lucky, within a few months we would be able to make a
string of new discoveries," Guido Tonelli, a spokesman at the
European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), told
Scientists gathered across the five control rooms of the
27-km long underground Large Hadron Collider (LHC) burst into
cheers as the detectors recorded the collisions of proton
beams at 7 trillion electron volts or close to the speed of
Dubbed as the world`s largest scientific experiment, the
USD 10 billion LHC holds the promise of revealing details
about theoretical particles and microforces, Satyaki
Bhattacharya, a Delhi university professor who has been
involved with the experiment, said in New Delhi.
He said that the scientists were on a hunt to detect the
elusive Higgs boson which is considered as a missing link in
the Standard Model of particle physics.
"All particles, except the Higgs boson, described in the
Standard Model have been detected. If we fail to detect this
elusive particle a lot of theories of physics will have to be
reworked," said Atul Gurtu, senior professor at the Tata
Institute of Fundamental Research, in Mumbai.
There were initial hiccups as problems developed with the
beams forcing scientists to "dump" the protons from the
collider and inject new ones.
"First, the system had to be reset after the power supply
to it tripped while the second time the general electrical
disturbances in the area triggered the Quench Protection
System shutdown," a scientist at CERN said.
This resulted in delay of a few hours before the beams
could be set in motion again and ramped up gradually to 3.5
terra electron volts (TeV). Scientists then took time to
stabilise the two beams at 3.5 TeV and finally triggered
collisions at 4:35 p.m. IST.
When the proton beams collide, hundreds of millions of
collisions per second would take place and powerful detectors
installed at the site would gather data of each of the
It is the analysis of this data that could lead to the
discovery of the Higgs boson, also called as the `God
particle`, that is believed to have existed when the universe
was born, said Bhattacharya.
Rolf Heuer, Director-General of CERN, said it is likely
to take months before any scientific discoveries are made,
partly because computers will have to sort through massive
amounts of data produced by the collisions.
Researchers will sift through the subatomic debris of
proton collisions for signs of extra dimensions that will
bolster belief in "supersymmetry", a theory that doubles the
number of particle species in the universe.
Other results may point to "hidden worlds" of particles
and forces that we are oblivious to because they do not
interact with everyday matter.
The data of the collisions will now start flowing to
various computing centres across the world. The Tata Institute
of Fundamental Research (TIFR) is one such centre which has
supercomputing facilities which would be used by scientists to
analyse the data.
"We have 400 terra bytes of storage capacity and are
adding another 250 terra bytes," said Gurtu.
The LHC is designed to collide two 7 TeV proton beams,
but scientists decided in January to operate the machine at
half the power until the end of 2011.
The machine will then
close for a year of further engineering work to ensure it can
run at full power in 2013 without breaking down again.
For scientists at CERN and elsewhere, the beginning of
high-energy collisions will end a long period of working
without any real data. Until recently, many physicists have
had to make do with computer simulations of particle
Much higher energy collisions take place constantly in
nature, when particles in cosmic rays slam into clouds of
interstellar gas, heavenly bodies and ions in the Earth`s
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