Smashing protons at high energies is fun and all, but researchers at the Large Hadron Collider are taking a vacation from their day-to-day proton smashing, and taking a trip back to the very origins of the universe. Starting this month and continuing for four weeks, the LHC will accelerate and then collide lead ions – that is, entire atomic nuclei – to create a series of miniature Big Bangs that will let researchers take a look at the quark-gluon plasma that existed just a fraction of a second after the universe was born.
The proton collisions conducted thus far have generated mountains of data for researchers by producing new and different particles, some of which may have never been seen by scientists before (like the elusive and theoretical Higgs boson). But the lead ion collisions will be different; because lead ions are composed of complete atomic nuclei – not just a single subatomic particle – their masses are far larger. Plug more mass into Einstein's most famous equation and the energy produced increases as well.
Those higher energy ion collisions are short in duration but long on heat. In fact, they should be the hottest collisions created yet. Brookhaven National Labs' Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider has conducted similar experiments with gold ions and reached 4 trillion degrees Kelvin (250,000 times hotter than the sun's core). The LHC's mini Big Bangs should be even hotter.
Why generate this kind of heat? Because that's how hot the universe was thought to have been just after the Big Bang. At that brief time, some 13.75 billion years ago, matter didn't exist as the solids, liquids, and gasses we are familiar with, but as a kind of quark-gluon soup. The heat from the Big Bang literally melted the nuclear matter of atoms, releasing the particles inside (like gluons and quarks).
At least, that's what science says the dawn of time looked like. We haven't seen it up close because Big Bangs aren't something that occur every day. But with a little luck, CERN researchers will be serving up some quark-gluon soup in short order. Get it while it's hot.
I can't wait to black out and see my future...
I know its not possible but I would love to see what would happen if we stuck a pig carcus inside when this happened and saw it in super duper slow Mo...would be friggin sweet looking.
It's a shame they canceled that series isn't it?
Don't take life to seriously! You'll never get out of it alive.
i've got the QED so while you're all blacked out seeing the future, i'll be like.. doing stuff. nah, i'd rather black out.
another series involving such things (well, in one episode)
the Invisible Man. this chic's mother was thrown into the particle accelerator and her energy/particles/whatever were floating around trying to let her daughter know her death wasn't an accident.
i would volunteer to go in there, and become like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandman_%28Marvel_Comics%29 or something. better than that guy though, what a crappy thing to be made of.
they should use the LHC to recycle nuclear waste..
So what are the odds that our 13.75 billion year old universe is just some other civilizations millionth of a nano second mini big bang experiment?
It will be interesting to see what happens when they DONT find the Higgs, and then they realize that all their model data is incorrect. Universe age, size, etc.
Commence atom smashing.
Hmmm... you speak of the discovery of Higgs Boson as a fait accompli. Curious.
In referenece to Calyesto's comment:
That would lead me to believe that if it were true, we are actually a part of an experiment from another species tests, our perception of time pales in comparison to theirs. The "mini big bangs" created by the LHC will hopefully be studied to the fullest extent of every branch of science.
It reminds me of the very last scene in Men In Black where the picture pans outward on and on until it shows the two aliens playing marbles with the different galaxies.
...why don't they use that psychotic amount of heat as an energy source?