The Large Hadron Collider has potentially made another major breakthrough. Researchers at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, AKA CERN, where the collider is housed, have managed to produce tiny droplets of matter that they believe are in a state similar or identical to what would have been found in the early moments of the birth of the universe.
This might sound like a small breakthrough, but in fact the achievement is already forcing scientists to rethink the earliest moments of the universe. The resulting plasma from the experiments, made of quark-gluons, is actually “tinnier” than expected. Previously, scientists didn’t believe a liquid-like plasma could be created from quark-gluons. The importance of this discovery cannot be underestimated.
Long story short, scientists currently believe that that universe was born in some sort of ‘big bang’, and that the properties and nature of matter in those early moments of existence would have been greatly different than they are now. Temperatures, gravity, and other forces would have been extreme in those early moments, likely unlike anything observed in the current state of the universe. At least until now.
Many scientists believe that the fundamental laws of the universe were actually determined in the nanoseconds after the birth of the universe. It’s possible that other universes actually exist too, and that the laws in these universes may differ widely from our own. Of course, no one knows for sure because scientists have found no way to study other universes, and many speculate it is impossible to do so.
While the Large Hadron Collider doesn’t allow us to study other universes, it has allowed scientists to learn more about our own reality. By slamming lead nuclei together at extremely high speeds, using the Large Hadron Collider, scientists believe they have been able to the “littlest liquid”, a sort of quark-gluon plasma. Interestingly, the scientists conducting the experiments didn’t believe that producing such a plasma was even possible.
The discovery will allow scientists to better study and understand the early moments of the universe, which have largely remained a mystery in spite of years of extensive research. The breakthrough could potentially help scientist understand how the basic forces of the universe, such as gravity, were determined. This will help scientists learn how both our universe formed and how it operates.
The collider works as you’d expect it to. It collides particles together, usually at extremely high speeds. The massive speeds generated by the collider allow scientists to observe the reaction of matter under extreme circumstances. When our universe was created, scientists speculate, all matter and all of reality was contained in an extremely tiny area, perhaps smaller than the tip of a pencil, and the forces in this tiny area were extreme, to say the least.
The Large Hadron Collider allows us to study how matter and energy function and exist in such extreme conditions. The Collider, located near Geneva Switzerland, is considered to be the largest machine ever built. Constructed at a cost of approximately 4.6 billion euro over the course of 30 years, the collider is the most advanced and powerful accelerator in the world. It has been instrumental for advancing the field of physics, allowing scientists to observe and measure extreme states of matter.
While the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) is in charge of the accelerator, it is used by scientists from around the world. The Large Hadron Collider just recently returned to full operational status after two years of upgrades.
While the Large Hadron Collider has received near universal praise for the many breakthroughs it has achieved, that doesn’t mean the facility is without its critics. Recently, one writer for a newspaper in Michigan actually accused CERN of trying to break apart the ‘God particle‘, a theorized sub-atomic particle that many scientists believe is the smallest and most fundamental building block of existence. According to the author, Lonnie Robinson, this will basically create a “stargate” and allow scientists to enter “unknown and potentially hostile” worlds.
Presently, the United States has no particle accelerator of similar capacity. The U.S. had planned to build the Superconducting Super Collider, which would have surpassed the LHC, and had even begun construction before the project was scrapped.
While the US lacks a particle accelerator of the scale and scope of the LHC, the country is still home to many smaller accelerators. Michigan State University is in the process of building a $550 million dollar accelerator, dubbed the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB). The accelerator will be located at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL) at Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing.