For many of us, counting down until the 10th of September has been fun. We’ve inadvertently been hoping for a black hole or strangelet to pop up near the Geneva border, as the Large Hadron Collider was switched on. As of writing this, the world still manages to survive, so things are looking up. Sure, it would have been cool to say “my planet got eaten by a strangelet” but, who’s complaining?
Already images are arriving from the LHC, showing us who-knows-what, and it won’t be long until data starts streaming out along their dedicated intranet to scientists across the planet.
The clockwise beam completed this first test lap in under an hour, causing an eruption of joy and an outbreak of bubbly in the control room. "No-one would have imagined that this could have been done in less than an hour. It's phenomonenal, quite unbelievable," an operator told AFP. "We are very happy and proud."
But the real interest, having moved past the initial phase of not being eaten by a strangelet (I’m having a hard time getting over that), is whether the Higgs boson will be found, the so called “God particle.”
The “father of the ‘God Particle’,” Professor Peter Higgs, believes that “it’s pretty likely” that scientists will finally find the missing link in the Standard Model. "The way I put it is that if there isn't anything there, then it means I and a lot of other people no longer understand all the things we understand about these weak and electromagnetic interactions," said Higgs, now 79 years old, a few hours after the LHC was switched on.
But not everyone is as optimistic. Everyone’s favorite physicist and mathematician, Stephen Hawking, has bet $100 that the LHC will not find the Higgs boson.
"The LHC will increase the energy at which we can study particle interactions by a factor of four. According to present thinking, this should be enough to discover the Higgs particle," Hawking told BBC radio. "I think it will be much more exciting if we don't find the Higgs. That will show something is wrong, and we need to think again. I have a bet of 100 dollars that we won't find the Higgs."
I almost tend to agree with Hawking, though from a purely bystander point of view. I won’t actually have to rethink anything if they fail to find the Higgs. Of course, by the time that they discern there is no Higgs to find, some years down the track, I will have only just gotten over my disappointment that we didn’t get eaten by a strangelet.
Posted by Josh Hill.