Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Large Hadron Collider Update

Working on a book on string theory I want to stay focused on the concepts and not just the math, so I've been reading Lisa Randall's fascinating book warped passages. Last night I was reading the section about the Higgs mechanism which physicists believe gives particles mass. That got me curious about the construction of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Europe, since they expect to detect the Higgs at the LHC among other things.

Well apparently they recently put the last detector element in place, the compact muon solenoid detector. This detector is designed to study high energy (TeV scale) proton collisions, that may not only allow scientists to detect the Higgs boson, but might give experimental hints about supersymmetry and even extra dimensions of space. Supersymmetry and extra dimensions fall in the realm of what physicists call "physics beyond the standard model", which may or may not include string theory.

The startup of the LHC, which should be this summer, will be an exciting time in particle physics. It has been some time since there has been a major breakthrough result in experimental particle physics but this device will certainly change that. The most exciting possibilities will be if it detects particles and interactions that nobody has thought of yet. You can read about the construction of the detector here:

Lisa Randall's book is a good popular read:

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