#TechTalksWithMelwyn – In God (Particle) We Trust!
This week on #TechTalksWithMelwyn we delve into the world of God Particle and research that seems nothing short than miraculous!
It’s been a while since we’ve heard about the God Particle, Higgs-Boson, the hottest topic from Switzerland to hit the world since Toblerone. You may argue that Toblerone isn’t fully owned by the Swiss, then again, neither is the God Particle research.
In 2008, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), passed the first beam through the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) to start research on what happened immediately following the Big Bang. Its name was derived from its ‘Large’ size of approximately 27km length, ‘Hadron’ because it accelerates particles called hadrons (protons or ions), and ‘Collider’ because it makes two beams of particles collide. On July 4th, 2012, CERN announced that they have found the Higgs-like particle that the world media dubbed the “God Particle”. The God Particle is the subatomic particle that gives every object its mass and also gave Mr. Higgs a Nobel prize. What we still don’t know is why the mass of different objects is different although they contain the same particle.
The LHC was built in a tunnel 100 meters below the ground as it was cheaper than acquiring the land above ground in Geneva, and the rock surrounding the tunnel would provide a natural shield from external radiation and radiation produced by the LHC. In October 2013, the LHC finished its first long run and went into its first long shutdown where maintenance and upgrades will allow it to perform collisions at 13TeV from 8TeV. To give you context, 1 TeV is about the energy of motion of a flying mosquito. Although that doesn’t sound like much, the LHC squeezes that amount of energy into a space a million million times smaller than a mosquito. While the experiment inspired awe as it gave us insight into what happened within a billionth of a second after the Big Bang, it also created fear as to what deadly weapons would be built using the understandings of nuclear physics at such a minute level. Thankfully for all of us, the scientists working there have no interest in destroying the world and the high energy & machinery required to generate this particle is simply not possible on a commercial scale.
Fast forward to today, and the scientists at CERN want to know more about the start of the universe and understand some concepts of the matter better. As per CERN, the team is proposing to build a larger collider called the Future Circular Collider (FCC) that in addition to what the LHC does, allows for electron-positron collisions and proton-electron collisions. Furthermore, the FCC will have a High Luminosity upgrade that will increase the possibility for discoveries after 2027 when we will hopefully reach the limits of discovery potential. Luminosity is an indicator of performance and is proportional to the number of collisions in a given amount of time. As the luminosity increases, the number of collisions increases, and the opportunities for scientists to observe rare processes increase.
The FCC is expected to crank things up a bit and get to 100 TeV while generating at least 15 million God particles as compared to 3 million in 2017 with the LHC. With a circumference of 100km and an estimated cost of at least $23 Billion, CERN is betting big on learning more about the God particle and discoveries that we yet don’t have the technology for. (Well if Ironman could invent a new element, I’m sure these smart people can come up with something).
As per Mike Wehner from BGR, the project will be covered in two stages: the first stage will include the construction of the FCC, and the second stage will include completely dismantling the FCC to build a higher-powered supercollider in its place. The second phase isn’t expected to start until much closer to 2100 (yes that isn’t a typo). While CERN has currently only approved plans & design for the FCC, we are yet to see what happens in the next two steps i.e. feasibility and funding. In a form of poetic justice, it is fitting that billions of dollars be spent to create technology and skilled jobs to find a particle we can’t see just as the European economy has been recently ravaged by a virus we can’t see!
Fount of wisdom, insufferable know it all, make it go away are just some of the phrases used to define Melwyn. When he is not at his Consulting job, he spends his time reading about technology and current affairs.