Our understanding of the Universe is about to change…
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a gigantic scientific instrument near Geneva, where it spans the border between Switzerland and France about 100 m underground. It is a particle accelerator used by physicists to study the smallest known particles – the fundamental building blocks of all things. It will revolutionise our understanding, from the minuscule world deep within atoms to the vastness of the Universe.
It was built to help scientists to answer key unresolved questions in particle physics. The unprecedented energy it achieves may even reveal some unexpected results that no one has ever thought of!
For the past few decades, physicists have been able to describe with increasing detail the fundamental particles that make up the Universe and the interactions between them. This understanding is encapsulated in the Standard Model of particle physics, but it contains gaps and cannot tell us the whole story. To fill in the missing knowledge requires experimental data, and the next big step to achieving this is with LHC.
Recipe for a Universe
Take a massive explosion to create plenty of stardust and a raging heat. Simmer for an eternity in a background of cosmic microwaves. Let the ingredients congeal and leave to cool and serve cold with cultures of tiny organisms 13.7 billion years later.
To understand the basic ingredients and the ‘cooking conditions’ of the cosmos, from the beginning of time to the present day, particle physicists have to try and reverse-engineer the ‘dish’ of the Universe. Within the complex concoction, cryptic clues hide the instructions for the cosmic recipe.
What is mass?
What is 96% of the universe made of?
Why is there no more antimatter?
What was matter like within the first second of the Universe’s life?
Do extra dimensions of space really exist?
The LHC experiments:
ALICE: A Large Ion Collider Experiment
ATLAS: is one of two general-purpose detectors at the LHC
CMS: Compact Muon Solenoid
LHCb: Large Hadron Collider beauty
TOTEM: TOTal Elastic and diffractive cross section Measurement
LHCf: Large Hadron Collider forward