The mad scientists at Geneva’s CERN will be running an experiment tomorrow in the Large Hadron Collider which begins an effort ever to shed some light on the fundamentals of the universe. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will fire particles around its 17-mile tunnel. It will then smash protons — one of the building blocks of matter — into each other at energies up to seven times greater than any achieved before. As I undertand it, scientists are hoping to reveal why most sub-atomic particles have mass (probably signalled by the appearance of something called the Higgs particle), reveal why nature prefers matter over anti-matter, and maybe even overturn the Standard Model, a collection of theories that embodies all of our current understanding of fundamental particles and forces. Cool. I wonder if this will have any philosophical consequences, I’m especially thinking of the correlationist/anti-correlationist distinction Meillassoux draws in After Finitude (see here). Hopefully, the LHC won’t create a black hole that will suck up the world as we know it. Anyway, if it works as planned there will be some rather exciting things to talk about. The Telegraph has a nice article about the experiment (see here). Here’s some science smarties commenting (also from the Telegraph):
Nima Arkani-Hamed, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, USA:
‘I’ve already bet a year’s salary they will find the Higgs particle. There’s also a pretty fair chance that they might observe some of the particles that make up the mysterious dark matter in the Universe. Such dark-matter particles may or may not have something to do with supersymmetry. My hunch is that there’s a better than evens chance that supersymmetry will show up at the LHC, which would be good as it gives a ‘natural’ explanation of why gravity is so weak compared with the other fundamental forces. It is also possible that the LHC will shock us by showing that our conventional notions of what constitutes a ‘natural explanation’ are incorrect.’
Garrett Lisi, Freelance physicist, and “surfer dude” who came up with a new theory of everything.
The most likely result from the LHC is detection of a single Higgs particle. This Higgs is required to break the unified symmetry of electroweak forces into the separate electromagnetic and weak forces we see. Many physicists also think it likely that evidence will be found for supersymmetry, strings, or new dimensions — but I disagree. If the LHC does see multiple new particles, my guess is these will be several different Higgs, compatible with the breaking of a unified symmetry of all forces existing at the smallest distances. Whatever the outcome, it will be very exciting to uncover nature’s beauty at this tiny scale.