November 16, 2010

LHC Continuing Its Search For Elusive ‘Extra Dimensions’

Scientists working at the CERN research center in Geneva, Switzerland say their "Big Bang" project should show the first proof of the existence of dimensions beyond the four known -- length, width, height and time -- as early as next year.

In the past eight months of results from experiments in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the scientists have gathered preliminary findings that could prove by the end of 2011 whether or not the mysterious Higgs boson really exists.

A spokesman for one of the CERN teams monitoring operations in the LHC, said probing for extra dimensions would become easier as energy of the proton collisions in it is increased in 2011.

Other physicists at CERN say the success so far of the largest scientific project on the planet suggests that some great enigmas of the universe could be at least partly resolved much sooner than they could have imagined.

"One year ago, it would have been impossible for us to guess that the machine and the experiments could achieve so much so quickly," Fabiola Gionotti, spokeswoman for another research team in the surveys, told Reuters.

Gionotti said that the teams are "producing new results all the time." The existence or otherwise of the Higgs boson, never yet spotted but believed to provide the glue giving mass to matter, should be settled one way or another by the end of next year.

The LHC, which went into full operation on March 31, is being used to smash protons together at near the speed of light to simulate the conditions that existed just moments after the Big Bang.

The operations in the LHC have been so smooth and trouble-free that CERN scientists began smashing together lead ions at the beginning of this month in attempts to create temperatures a million times hotter than at the core of the Sun.

The collisions are giving researchers another way of looking at what happened with a millionth of second after the Big Bang and at the first matter produced by the massive explosion.

CERN scientists said they have already taken research with lead ions further than those with gold at the long-running Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at the U.S. Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island.

The LHC is scheduled to be shut down on December 6 for service and maintenance and also to avoid draining electricity in the depths of winter from the energy networks of France and Switzerland.

The LHC will restart in February, and run at full blast until the end of 2011, when it will be shut again until 2013 while engineers prepare it for running at double the energy at least to the end of the decade.


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