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Geneva atom smasher starts journey to unlock origin of universe

D Ravi Kanth  |  Geneva 

After three failed attempts and a delay of more than 18 months, the world’s costliest scientific experiment began today on a successful footing to reveal the secrets of the origins of the universe — at the European Nuclear Research Organization (CERN) near the Switzerland-France border in Geneva.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), or atoms smasher, started producing results from a large-scale collision of protons, in a long journey to unlock the origin of the universe, especially the early “super symmetrical particles” that led to the creation of the building blocks in the universe, scientists and engineers said.

The $10-billion experiment involved successful steering of a beam of protons almost at a speed of light around a 27-km tunnel that houses CERN’s largest collider. Amid scene of joy among the world’s leading particle physicists and nuclear scientists, LHC will attempt to accelerate the collisions of protons to 7 TeV (3.5 TeV per beam) — seven trillion electron volts — and then smash them together to reveal particles and forces which led to the formation of matter during the first trillionth of a second of time.

The underlying idea is to create the moment when the universe began forming as a result of collision of protons, particularly the strange particle known as the Higgs as well as the “dark matter” that has enveloped the cosmos. “It opens a new window of discovery and it brings with patience, new knowledge of the universe and the microcosm,” said Rolf Heuer, CERN’s director general from Japan. “It shows what one can do in bringing forward knowledge,” he said, suggesting that it was an experiment worth carrying out.

“We are all proud and so happy,” said Fabio Gianotti, a spokesperson for CERN.

Indian particle physicists and engineers played a significant role in the LHC project, especially in providing 1,706 assemblies of cryomagnets, essential for acceleration functions in LHC.

First Published: Wed, March 31 2010. 00:55 IST