Since the beginning of human history, man has questioned origins and existence. Not just his own, but of everything he sees around him, like animals, the sky, water, air, etc. With progression in human technology, we have made huge breakthroughs in almost every field we have explored. There is one subject that continues to elude human understanding though, The Universe.
This is where our time machine comes into play. Our breakthroughs to date suggest that the Universe we see today is the result of a huge explosion at the beginning of time, called The Big Bang. Studies of the forces between the particles just after The Big Bang are the footprints of the steps our Universe took to get us where we are today. If we can go back in time and trace the footprints of the Universe, we can get a good idea regarding time zero.
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has been made for just that. It is the world’s largest and most powerful particle collider. It was built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) between 1998 and 2008 in collaboration with over 100 countries!
The LHC allows scientists to reproduce the conditions that existed within a billionth of a second after The Big Bang by colliding beams of high-energy atoms or sub-atomic particles at colossal speeds, close to the speed of light. This was the moment, around 13.7 billion years ago, when the Universe is believed to have started with an explosion of energy and matter. During these first moments, all the particles and forces that shape our Universe came into existence, defining what we now see.
One of the biggest discoveries made with the LHC includes the long sought-after Higgs boson, predicted in 1964 by scientists working to combine theories of two of the fundamental forces of nature. The Higgs boson was the last remaining piece of the jigsaw puzzle of what we call the standard model of particle physics.
There is still a lot to be understood though. There are a number of questions that the standard model does not answer. For example, studies of galaxies and other large-scale structures in the universe indicate that there is a lot more matter out there than we observe. We call this dark matter since we can’t see it. The most common explanation to date is that dark matter is made of an unknown particle.
In the on-going quest to unlock the secrets of the universe, CERN has unveiled conceptual plans for another particle accelerator called the “Future Circular Collider” (FCC). A successor to the 27 kilometre-long LHC, the FCC would feature a circular tunnel spanning an incredible 100 km.
What kind of benefits can be achieved with a more powerful particle accelerator like the FCC? For one, its extreme length would allow atoms to build up enough velocity to approach the speed of light, triggering larger collisions that may unveil new particles presently invisible to modern technology, like dark matter.
“It’s a huge leap, like planning a trip not to Mars, but to Uranus,” says Gian Francesco Giudice, who heads CERN’s theory department. “Today, exploring the highest possible energies with bold projects is our best hope to crack some of the mysteries of nature at the most fundamental level.
Who knows, maybe our 27 km long time travel machine, buried 100 metres under Earth, may just be the key that unlocks the Universe for us.
Vivek Varma is pursuing his B.Tech from Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) in Electronics and Instrumentation Engineering. He is pursuing an online specialization in modern robotics.