Christine Chan, Christie Lin
At 7:30a.m. (GMT) on 10th September, 2008, the first beams of particle were emitted in the world’s biggest atom-smasher at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) laboratory straddling the French-Swiss border. The beams will be colliding at nearly the speed of light in a ring-shaped tunnel which is 27 kilometres long for a whole year. The successful start up of the biggest physics experiment in history symbolizes that the secret of the universe will soon be revealed to human.
The “Big Bang” experiment is regarded as a mega milestone for human of advancement in physics. Scientists expect discovery of fundamental forms of matter created when protons are colliding at nearly the speed of light.
According to the CERN, the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid (LCG) project has been carried out for data storage and analysis as the experiment would produce approximately 15 Petabytes, meaning 15 million Gigabytes of data per year. Data collected would be distributed to scientists worldwide to access through the system. This symbolizes the advancement of computer and technology to the world.
The CERN has also brought good news to cancer fighters. The first beams of particle, a by-product of the experiment, have been proved to be useful in cancer treatment in a research. Unlike the radiotherapy adopted presently, beams of particle can kill cancer cells while reducing the amount of healthy tissues harmed in the surroundings.
Another thing the experiment brought to the world would be the new way of nuclear waste disposal. It is discovered that when one of the by-products of the experiment is radiated onto a piece of laminated lead, it would emit substances which would decompose radioactive decay into harmless stable elements. This would not only be environmentally friendly but also secure to human.
Thousands of scientists around the world are hoping to get insights and proof to their doubts about the fundamental elements of the universe from the LHC operation. Due to the lack of advance technology, possible theories and ideas come up by physicists cannot be verified. It has long been anticipated that mysteries to the start of the universe, the Big Bang will be unveiled and related problems such as antimatter and the Higgs field can also be solved through the experiment. Scientists commented the LHC is a remarkable achievement and its experimental results can open doors to more discoveries and breakthroughs.
Contrary to scientist, some have reserve about it. They are worried about that it might produce doomsday phenomena such as the dangerous microscopic black holes and strange matter as suggested in theory. Former radiation safety officer Walter L. Wagner, science writer Luis Sancho and biochemist Otto Rossler attempted to halt the experiment through petitions to the US and European Courts. One Indian girl even committed suicide after the report on the drastic effect of the operation.
Such rumours have been crushed by notable scientist Stephen Hawking. He speaks for CERN in response to the public’s safety concern, that it is simply impossible to have created black holes during the test.
The LHC is now closed for maintenance due to the leakage of helium. On the other hand, the USA is planning to launch the Orbiting Carbon Conservatory into space next year. Aiming to provide an accurate map of carbon dioxide distribution, the satellite will mark an important era in climate change research.
There are huge hopes for these advancements that significant progress can be made to the world of science.
The Sunday Times—Large Hadron Collider could help fight cancer (Sep 7, 2008)