Scientists on Tuesday came a little closer to understanding the Big Bang — the event that created the universe — when they slammed together two streams of sub atomic particles, moving at very high speed at an energy level never before achieved in the laboratory.
The collision was orchestrated at around 4:30 pm (IST) in the world’s largest particle collider, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Geneva.
The collision sought to recreate — on a vastly reduced scale — the conditions that scientists believe came into being right after the Big Bang.
Once analysed, the results could change the way physicists understand the origin and structure of the universe.
“This is the first time we have a collision which will answer some very fundamental questions definitively, such as the origin of mass and the existence of dark matter,” said Atul Gurtu, a senior professor in the department of high-energy physics at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai. Gurtu has been collaborating with CERN since 1994. (Scientists believe the existence of dark matter accounts for some of the earth’s gravitational irregularities.)
When sub atomic particles slam together at very high speeds, they shatter, leaving behind new elements. Scientists are hoping one of the new elements created by the collision and shattering will be the fabled Higgs boson — popularly called ‘God Particle’ — the particle that some theories claim is responsible for the mass of everything in the universe.
The LHC is a 26.6 km circular tube buried nearly 100 mt below the earth’s surface. Two clouds of sub atomic particles were set in motion in this in opposite directions 10 days ago. Bouncing off the walls and picking up energy, they smashed into each other, creating an energy field that, if it were converted into heat, would be hotter than the surface of the sun.
Indian scientists have contributed to the Compact Muon Solenoid, one of the ultra-sensitive detectors scientists at CERN used to monitor and photograph the collision. The TIFR, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai, Punjab University and Delhi University have all been involved.
“The smaller the particles you want to see, the more high-energy the collision has to be,” said Satyaki Bhattacharya, associate professor at DU who worked on the CMS for 11 years.