Back to the Big Bang? At the Large Hadron Collider
Researchers inspecting a section of the LHC collider. Copyright STFC
UK LHC research community; Science and Technology Facilities Council
Summer 2008 marks the start of a new era in our understanding of the Universe. After a 25-year wait, scientists will turn on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) – the world’s largest particle accelerator – in Geneva. By smashing particles together at 99.999999% the speed of light, the LHC will enable physicists to test their theories about the Universe.
'Scientists' understanding of the Universe is incomplete,' explains Ray Mathias, of the Science and Technology Facilities Council. 'For example, our best model of how fundamental particles and forces work depends on several untested predictions.'
The LHC will create conditions similar to those moments after the start of the Big Bang. Scientists will examine how matter and forces behaved in the early Universe and how this led to the Universe we inhabit today.
'The LHC is a set of experiments,' says Ray. 'Scientists hope to see signals in the LHC’s detectors that confirm some of their theories. Over the next 15 years, a better understanding of what the Universe is made of and how it operates should emerge. The UK has a leading role in this research that brings together over 100 nations and 7,000 scientists.'