March 8, 2010

Can CERN Prove The Existence Of Dark Matter?

Big-bang experiments conducted at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) might be able to prove the existence of dark matter, claims the research center's director general.

Speaking at a March 8 press conference, Rolf-Dieter Heuer said that experiments utilizing CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will attempt to recreate the conditions believed to have led to the "Big Bang" more than 13 billion years ago -- and in the process, could shed some light on the mysteries of dark matter.

The LHC, which is the world's largest and most powerful atom smasher on the planet, "could be the first machine to give us insight into the dark universe," Heuer said. "We are opening the door to New Physics, to a discovery period."

"If we can detect and understand dark matter, our knowledge will expand to encompass 30 percent of the universe, a huge step forward," he added.

Dark matter is a form of matter that cannot be detected by electromagnetic radiation, but is believed to exist because of the gravitational effect it appears to have on visible matter. Astronomers believe that this seemingly invisible material makes up at least one-quarter and perhaps as much as 70-percent of the universe. Its existence has not been proven as of yet.

That could change following CERN's upcoming experiments, in which they plan to use the LHC to force particles to collide at seven teraelectron volts (TeV) -- the highest energy level ever recorded. These reactions should result in a series of miniature big-bangs, which Heuer and the CERN staff will observe in order to find the particle believed to have essentially given birth to stars, planets, and various forms of life.

The LHC was restarted at the end of February and is expected to run through the end of March. The $5.6 billion instrument is located in a 16.8 mile underground tunnel on the French-Swiss border near Geneva. Prior to restarting the LHC, CERN had completed $40 million in renovations. It will remain active until late 2011, at which time it will be shutdown as the team attempts to achieve energy output of 14 TeV.

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