October 21, 2010
CERN Physicists See Parallel Universe Possibilities
Scientists investigating the origins of the universe are hoping the vast underground Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland, will lead to new discoveries that could completely change existing views of how the cosmos works.
"Parallel universes, unknown forms of matter, extra dimensions... These are not the stuff of cheap science fiction but very concrete physics theories that scientists are trying to confirm with the LHC and other experiments," Reuters quoted the international research center's Theory Group as saying in CERN's staff-targeted Bulletin this month.
The Theory Group is tasked with contemplating what might exist in the universe beyond the reach of telescopes.
As particles are collided in the LHC complex at increasingly high energies, they should be able to be brought into computerized view, the physicists said.
The hundreds of scientists working at CERN have grown optimistic after the $10 billion LHC along the border of France and Switzerland met its goals this year.
CERN Director-General Rolf Heuer told his staff last weekend that as of mid-October, protons were being collided along the 16.8-mile underground ring at the rate of 5 million collisions per second. That achievement was two weeks ahead of schedule, he said.
If this progress continues, collisions will take place at a rate producing one "inverse femtobarn" of information by next year, providing vast amounts of data for scientists to analyze.
The head-on collisions occur at roughly the speed of light, and recreate events that took place a tiny fraction of a second after the "Big Bang" 13.7 billion years ago, in which the known universe was brought into existence.
Today, just 4 percent of that universe is known because the rest consists of invisible dark matter and dark energy.
Billions of particles flying off from each LHC collision are tracked at four CERN detectors to determine when and how they come together and what shapes they take.
The CERN scientists say this data could provide clear signs of dimensions beyond length, width, depth and time because at such high energy particles could be tracked disappearing and then reappearing into one of the traditional four dimensions.
Parallel universes could also be hidden within these extra dimensions, the scientists theorize, but only in a gravitational variety in which light cannot be propagated, making it virtually impossible to investigate.
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