by Joan Seth
Picture is (C) copyright to CERN
The Large Hardon Collider (LHC for short) particle accelerator was officially started running in November 2009, after it was shutdown in September 2008. The LHC lies in a tunnel 27 kilometres in circumference, as much as 175 metres beneath the French and Swiss border near Geneva, Switzerland. Currently it has been shut down again till February 2010, while slight improvements are made.
The particle accelerator fires beams of protons and lead nuclei, smashing them together at energies of up to 2.36 TeV (Terra Electron Volts). Through this, scientists hope to unravel some of the issues still plugging modern physics.
One of the questions they hope to answer is: Does the Higgs Particle exist?
I won't go into the essential Physics Standard Model Theories (might bore everyone to death), but bascially, there are four fundamental Forces of nature. Gravity, which are carried by particles named Gravitons, Electromagnetic Force, which is carried by Photons and the Strong and Weak Nuclear Forces, carried by Gluons and Vector Bosons respectively.
Other particles - the Leptons, which consists of Electrons and Neutrinos and the Quarks, are the basis of all matter. That is to say, the smallest building blocks of all matter are Leptons and Quarks.
This is essentially a simple breakdown of the Standard Model. It is somewhat like a list of elementary particles where all known and speculated particles and their antiparticles are listed.
However, there is still one missing particle in the Standard Model Theory - The Higgs Boson. Basically, it is described as the particle that gives all the above mentioned particles mass. It has not yet been observed through experiments yet, unfortunately. Yet it is predicted to exist. Without proof of its existence, all our current theories of modern Physics could fail.
It's importance in physics has been defined by the fact some scientists have called it the 'God's Particle'.
The LHC aims to provide experimental evidence of the Higgs particle. But thus far, it has not been successful, although scientists are still hopeful it will be discovered in the near future. But in the process, many people are worried it might spell the End of the World.
Even if the energies produced in the LHC are considerably low, some scientists do believe that in the existence of extra spatial dimensions, in which it would be possible to create micro black holes at the LHC.
The effects of a micro black hole could be catastrophic - I'm pretty sure everyone knows what a black hole is, and what are its theorized effects. A micro black hole passing through the Earth could theoretically absorb it whole.
Strangelets are strange matter. Hypothetically they are a form of quark matter. If they actually exist, and if they were produced at the LHC, they could conceivably initiate a runaway fusion process in which all the nuclei in the planet would be converted to strange matter, similar to a strange star.
This would render all matter in the world into another form of matter. Thus, there will be no more matter. The Earth would be reduced to a lump of strange matter. Strange? But theoretically it could still happen.
Magnetic Monopoles are also weird particles. Ordinary magnets all have 2 poles - A North and a South. However, Monopoles only have a single pole. If they really exist, they could destroy nucleons and they can quickly traverse the earth and escape into space. Alternatively, if they are really proven to exist by the LHC, then it would be a major scientific breakthrough for mankind.
Another possibility is that the LHC could create sufficiently high energy density as to penetrate the barrier and stimulate the decay of the false vacuum to the lower energy vacuum.
In short, it could create a False Vacuum. If a bubble of lower energy vacuum were nucleated, it would approach at nearly the speed of light and destroy the Earth instantaneously, without any forewarning.
Finally, some people have hypothesized that the experiments conducted in the LHC could rip the fabric of space and time, and that a rift in our dimension could occur. A gateway into another dimension could be then created. This scenario has been popularized in games such as Doom and Half Life.
So could all these really happen? Some people really think so, even going to the effect of starting protests against the LHC. The top brains in charge reassure us, saying its not going to happen; they have done an investigation and the results are inconclusive.
But when demons start appearing out of micro black holes one day, you know who to blame.