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All That Jazz
The CERN Project - What the Heck is a Hadron Collider ?
A Hadron Collider is a research tool used by scientists to accelerate particles (such as protons) to very high kinetic energies and allowing them to impact each other. The byproduct of these collisions are analyzed to give evidence of the subatomic world and the associated natural laws.
Once such collider is the Large Hadron Collider built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (or in French, the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire, or CERN) from 1998 to 2008. It has been spotlighted by the documentary film Particle Fever (2013).
Although the film marks an event and tells the public about the famously theorized Higgs Boson that has come to light, it doesn’t really explain how it works. In fact, the movie only gives a “bumbling” or “lighter-human” side of the project: the scientists who can’t decide if their time and efforts will ever mean anything or even pay off. It misses as a true documentary over a scientific event because it doesn’t explain the large hadron collider, such as:
i) Where the protons are introduced into the accelerator and how many. (They are introduced as packets
from a tank of hydrogen gas and then stripped of their electrons before entering the accelerator).
ii) How the protons are accelerated. (They are accelerated in four stages, and thus four actual loops are
used, the final being the 17 mile loop where the particles collide. The three smaller loops are apart
from the main loop to “pre-accelerate” the particles).
iii) The main loop has two tubes side by side. (The main loop is actually constructed of two side-by-side
tubes to move the protons in opposite directions. They cross at four points and this is where the
collisions occur. There are detection systems at each of the four points and therefore the four project
names: ATLAS, CMS, ALICE, and LHCb).
iv) The proton particles are accelerated and “steered” by the magnets. (Not only do the superconducting
magnets make the moving particles go faster - approaching the speed of light – they guide them along
their circular path and then “squeeze” them into a tighter path aligning them to eventually collide).
v) The apparatus that takes up five stories is called a detector. (The hardware that appears like the
“fictional stargate” and requires five stories of space is actually the detector equipment needed for
the aftermath of the collisions).
vi) Why the collider is built underground. (Is it in case of an explosion or a likelihood of a black hole ?
No. Any such danger does not exist at such scale and quantity of particles. The collider is built
underground to block incoming radiations such as the interference of radio waves. It is underground
to protect the project).
There seems to be one such hypothesis why the project was never fully explained in the movie. If the whole idea were finally explained, how do you explain to the scientist that their entire time spent was for proving the inverse of sub-atomic particles ? It is not hadrons (or quarks) that are important, but atoms that remain the one and only true building block of nature and which provides the practical and purposeful needs to mankind. Only the knowledge of atoms are needed to provide metallurgical, synthetic, and natural products such as soaps, paints, detergents, chemicals, and all metal alloys, plastics, and composites; and all the thousands and thousands of ordinary and useful materials and products that enrich our everyday lives.
However, the CERN project did provide this vital anti-thesis in completing our knowledge of the universe and allowing us to continue forward. If jazz were considered the anti-thesis to classical music, then CERN is the jazz music. Although not necessarily true to one's ear, it provides intellectual understanding, knowledge, and backing to what could be truer to one's ear, or classical music. It did answer the Higgs boson question, further supports the big bang theory, and even invent the World Wide Web. It seems to be inevitable that we need a change of pace from time to time, and that dabbing unknown areas brings more light to the main theme, even if it does result in “all that jazz.”
A Prerequisite: What are Quarks ? What's a Boson ?
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