GENEVA – The worlds largest atom smasher, the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider under the Swiss-French border, threw together minuscule particles racing at unheard of speeds in conditions simulating those just after the Big Bang – a success that could one day explain how the universe began.
Tuesdays crash of two proton beams on a subatomic scale produced three times more energy than researchers had created before.
Its bizarrely both a record high and a small amount of energy. Physicist Michio Kaku, a professor at City College of New York, described the amount of energy produced as less than the total energy made by two mosquitoes crashing.
Two beams were sent hurtling in opposite directions toward each other in a 17-mile tunnel. Researchers used superconducting magnets to force the beams to cross. Two of the protons collided, producing 7 trillion electron volts.
The data produced by the collider could answer questions of particle physics. Does antimatter exist? What about the Higgs boson, the hypothetical particle that scientists theorize gives mass to other particles? The collider also may help scientists see dark matter.
Down the line, the data could answer questions about the Big Bang, alternate universes and whether time travel is possible. It would change peoples philosophy, Kaku said.
The power produced in the collider will ramp up even more in the future as scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research watch for elusive particles that have been more theorized than seen on Earth.