The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) of the European Center for Particle Physics (CERN) in Geneva (Switzerland) will produce proton collisions starting tomorrow at an energy never before reached, which will allow it to more easily recreate the conditions that existed in the first microseconds after the big Bang.
The objective will be to answer the big questions that persist about the functioning of nature and life, and to see what no technology has allowed until now: the beginning of the Universe.
For nearly four years the LHC will operate at a record collision energy of 13.6 trillion electron volts (TeV), virtually simulating the density at the very beginning of the universe.
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No technology is capable of seeing what happened at that time, not because 13.8 billion years have passed since then, but because during the first 300 thousand years after the Big Bang there was no light in the Universe.
“Well, it is not that there was no light, but it is that it was so hot that the matter absorbed the light, with which everything was totally black, there was no free light,” the researcher at the Physics Institute of Cantabria and an expert explains to Efe. in high energies, Celso Martínez, who is also the representative in Spain of the CMS experiment, one of the LHC detectors.
That’s why you can’t count on the development of more powerful telescopes to see what happened back then, even if there are already some that have been installed on space missions and could potentially have that range.
“The only way is to recreate the conditions (of the Big Bang) on Earth, with accelerators that generate the energy density that existed at that time and see what comes out,” says Martínez.
This is exactly equivalent to seeing the past of the universe, as happens more often when we perceive a star at night that has already died, but whose light continues to travel through the cosmos.
THE HIGGS BOSON
The LHC will reach its maximum power just the day after the tenth anniversary of the discovery of the Higgs Boson, which on July 4, 2012 represented a milestone in the history of science and earned its theorists – the British Peters Higgs and the Belgian François Englert – the Nobel Prize in Physics the following year.
The energy that the LHC will reach will make it possible to multiply data collection not only to continue studying the properties of the Higgs Boson, but also to observe processes that were inaccessible until now.
After the discovery of the Higgs Boson, the collider made possible the discovery of more than 60 compositional particles that had been predicted by theorists, including some considered “exotic” in nature such as tetraquarks and pentaquarks.
Among other things, the origin of matter and antimatter in the universe, the properties of matter at extreme temperatures and densities, and candidate particles for dark matter will be sought.
At a press conference to remember the scientific feat that occurred a decade ago, the director of CERN, Fabiola Gianotti, said that her dream is that in the coming years the LHC will be able to reconstitute dark matter, which represents 25% of the universe. .
“With this our understanding of the universe would go from the current 5% to 30%, but we do not know if this will be possible,” he admitted.
The head of the Department of Theoretical Physics at CERN, Gian Guidice, commented that the discovery of the Higgs Boson was “a revolution and made particle physics change more in ten years than in the previous thirty years”.
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“You have to understand that the goal of particle physics is to understand the fundamental principles of nature, so the discovery of new particles is in itself an advance to gain that knowledge,” he added.
However, he recommended the public and politicians “not to become obsessed” with the number of particles that can be found, since this is as if Charles Darwin had been asked “how many birds did he see in Galapagos, instead of asking him what knowledge he had won over biological evolution.
“It’s the same at the LHC. We are doing this exploration not to count the birds (the particles), but to understand the fundamentals about the evolution of our universe”, he concluded.
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Scientists Recreate Conditions That Triggered the Big Bang