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Physicists have long hoped the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, in Switzerland would be able to recreate the Big Bang, shedding light on the conditions of the early universe. Now, the LHC has done just that. One physicist tells Fairfax Media what they're looking for.
(POINTING AT DIAGRAM) “The Big Bang starts here. Today we are here. What we want to study is this region, the first time that the universe did not consist only of elementary objects, but when these elementary objects coalesced into combined objects: protons, neutrons, and later on nuclei.”
Now, by saying they’ve recreated the Big Bang, scientists don’t mean they’re creating mini-universes in the lab. What they are doing is recreating the earliest state of matter.
By slamming lead ions together at nearly the speed of light, they create tiny collisions at extremely high energies. The temperature of the collisions is hot enough to melt protons and neutrons, over a hundred thousand times hotter than the center of the Sun. (Video Source: ALICE)
So what do scientists hope to learn from these Little Bangs? Well, looking at the results from these collisions is like reverse-engineering the dawn of the universe when matter first formed. As one physicist explains to CBC News, what better way to learn how matter is held together than to smash it apart?
“[W]hat we hope to do is create a new state of matter in which kind of the atoms have melted into these fundamental constituents of quarks and gluons, and we’ll be able to study, then, how those objects ... go to make up the stuff that you and I are made of.”
But while physicists everywhere are excited by the achievement, it’ll take a long time to wade through all the data. One of the LHC researchers reminds us on BBC News that physicists are a patient bunch.
“We’ve waited a long time for this. You know, from conception to design and building it’s taken about 20 years. So, you know, we’ve finally got to the stage where these collisions are taking place. ... There’s some results that’ll come out very quickly, within weeks. Others will take months, and some results will take years.”
So does light-speed lead make your heart race, or is the LHC a giant toy by physicists, for physicists? Give us your thoughts in the comments section.
Get more multi-source science news analysis from Newsy****