The high-energy particle collider operated by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) will not create a black hole Monday. Probably.
Ten years ago, researchers confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson, the so-called “God particle” that explains how particles created by the “Big Bang” developed mass. Since the matter-antimatter collisions that created the Big Bang produce nothing but photons, something must have affected them to add mass. Otherwise, neither Earth nor humans would exist because both are made of matter.
For the last three years, the high-tech underground facility has been shut down for repairs and upgrades. The combination of machines, magnets and coolant combine to speed up atomic building blocks like protons to a velocity approaching the speed of light. It began powering up in April at lower energy levels building up to Monday’s launch of a three-year experiment using energy that will be 10 times greater than what was used to confirm the Higgs boson.
Tunnels carved 100 meters beneath Switzerland cities house CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which features 22 miles of machines. Each machine injects the beam into the next one, which takes over to bring the beam to an even higher energy, which continues until the last stage
“We will put in a collision, for the first time, in the LHC, protons at an energy record of 6.8 tev per beam,” said Delphine Jacquet, an engineer in charge of the LHC. “At this energy the collision will be at 13.6 tera electron volts, and this will be a very nice record for the experiment.”
“From this moment on, it will be the data taken from the experiment, for a long run of 3 years, hoping that we will have new discoveries and interesting things coming out from these collisions.”
The unprecedented number of collisions expected will let CERN physicists study the Higgs boson in great detail and put the Standard Model of particle physics to its most stringent tests yet, the organization explained.
Beyond further study of Higgs boson, researchers will create special proton–helium collisions to measure how often those collisions generate the antimatter counterparts of protons. Particle physicists will also study collisions involving oxygen ions to improve their knowledge of cosmic-ray physics and the quark–gluon plasma, a state of matter that existed shortly after the Big Bang.
Social media saw posts that expressed fear the experiments will lead to the creation of a black hole that will swallow Earth, or create a warp in time-space continuum. Others maintained a sense of humor.
“All those people worried about Satan, 666 etc, I’d just like to point out that CERN, home of the Large Hadron Collider (that can theoretically create a black hole) has a statue of Lord Shiva, Destroyer of Worlds, at the entrance,” commented one account. “I’m sure it’s nothing, though.”