Sunday, April 22, 2012

Blog Assignment 12

In this assignment, you will watch this video: The LHC - The Large Hadron Collider. After watching it, find out in more detail exactly why they built the Large Hadron Collider. Write about your findings.

The collision of subatomic particles with the amount of force exerted in the LHC has, in the past, raised concerns that the LHC is unsafe. Explore what those concerns are, and explain why it may or may not be so.

Don't forget to include particle detectors in your research. Why are they important?

Lastly, research the findings of the LHC. Explain the relevance of these discoveries.

The Large Hadron Collider

A map of the Large Hadron Collider
After watching the video, it's readily apparent that the Large Hadron Collider (or LHC) is a technological masterpiece. It's the most powerful particle accelerator on the planet, and is located on the border of Switzerland and France. It was created by the European Organization for Nuclear Research with the intent of discovering subatomic particles as well as learning more about basic laws of interaction between matter, on a quantum (or very small) scale. It is also believed that the theoretical particle that gives all matter mass, the Higgs Boson, can be discovered through particle collision (and detection of the reactions in the six detectors located throughout the LHC).

There were a few concerns about what might be created as particles slam into each other at almost the speed of light - these concerns are microscopic black holes and theoretical particles known as strangelets. Although the idea of a black hole being created on Earth is terrifying, the fact of the matter is that if they are created, they are so small that they would be unable to interact with normal matter. Without accretion of matter, the microscopic black holes would dissipate very rapidly, unable to absorb matter quickly enough to stay stable or grow. Strangelets, although frightening to think about (as they convert anything they touch into 'strange matter'), cannot be created with the energies contained within the LHC. No real evidence has been found to suggest that either of these scenarios is likely - other particle colliders have been operating for over 10 years, and no such event has occurred (or been detected) thus far.
Two protons smash into each other, creating a cloud of subatomic particles that are detected and studied
The results of a particle collision.

Although the LHC itself is very impressive, its results could not be measured without the six detectors placed throughout its 26 kilometer circumference. As the particles collide within the detectors, subatomic particles are ejected away from the collision, and into the detectors. As the ejected matter interacts with the detectors, computer software translates the interaction into a graphic display that the researcher can observe. In this way, what actually happens in the collision can be measured and studied.

The general purpose atlas detector
The ATLAS detector. Note the man standing at the bottom

In December of 2011, a particle with attributes consistent with what physicists theorize the Higgs boson would have was observed. It will be a while before further research can conclude its existence, but if it does, it will be an enormous milestone for modern science. Not only would this mean that we had the technological prowess to create the conditions for and detect such a particle, but it would also mean that our general understanding of the workings of the world are fairly accurate. Although not every theoretical assertion will be true, being correct about one as big as the particle that gives matter its mass would mean that we've made great strides in how we understand the world around us.


  1. Daniel,

    What a scientific assignment! You gave a good detailed explanation. This video helps to break down how the Large Hadron Collider works in a way that would really help your science students.

    1. Thanks! I tried to get right to using online resources for research and study. Being as it was my first shot at it, I'm pretty happy with the potential!

    2. You're welcome. I think the internet will be a very useful resource for your class one day!

  2. Daniel,
    You did a great job tying your field into this class with an interesting video. I think that your students are going to love your class when you are actually a teacher, as it seems you will have well informed and interesting lessons for them to do!