Friday, January 29, 2016
THE LARGE HADRON COLLIDER: IF ALL YOU’VE GOT IS A HAMMER, EVERYTHING LOOKS LIKE A NAIL!
THE LARGE HADRON COLLIDER:
IF ALL YOU’VE GOT IS A HAMMER,
EVERYTHING LOOKS LIKE A NAIL!
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is by far the largest machine on the planet. The LHC is constructed in a 17 mile circular tunnel about 570 feet beneath the ground, near the city of Geneva Switzerland. It is designed to accelerate atomic and subatomic particles to near light speed and then smash them together. The idea is that by inspecting the pieces flying apart from the point of collision, we can learn how the ‘stuff’ of the physical universe works. Even before the LHC was built, we had already identified most of the major parts of an atom, but we had questions about how such small particles spinning with so much energy could be stable. Why were quarks combined in threes, never twos? And why did the particles have so much more mass combined, than they did separately? There must be something lurking inside the nucleons that would explain these puzzles.
When first started up in 2010, The LHC particle accelerating power was about 4 times that of any previous ‘atom smasher’. Looking at the data generated from thousands of collisions, they saw evidence of many different pieces, making up the so-called ‘particle zoo’. But no Higgs boson, and they still didn’t have all the answers they needed to understand how subatomic particles work. The particle physicists suggested that, with even more power, the LHC might simulate the conditions of the big-bang origin of the universe (On a much smaller scale, of course), and they hoped to find all the particles predicted by theory (the Standard Model) including the Higgs boson, the so-called “God Particle”; and they even dreamed they could have the long sought-after Theory of Everything. So, in 2013, the LHC was shut down in order to upgrade it to an accelerating power about twice the power of the first run. In May, 2015, they started it up again, and sure enough, there was a track that fit the predicted trajectory of the Higgs boson! But even the “God particle” didn’t answer all the questions. Among the scattered, broken parts of protons and neutrons, there were still questions. For example, if the Higgs boson imparts mass to elementary particles, how does it do that? What is the mechanism?
Lest what I am about to say be interpreted as critical and dismissive of this great accomplishment of science and engineering called the Large Hadron Collider, let me say, up front, that I am very happy that this giant machine exists, because without the data produced by it, the discoveries that Dr. Neppe and I are making with the new sicentific paradigm, TDVP, would be impossible. Having said that, I feel that we must put the LHC into proper context. We are just at the beginning of understanding the true nature of reality. We are like children standing on the beach of an ocean stretching away into infinity, with a toy shovel and a Dixie cup in our hands, dreaming of building a bridge to the other side of the ocean.
Even though the LHC incorporates the brilliant work of literally thousands of mainstream scientists from all over the world, its use to unlock the secrets of reality are rather crude. Let me suggest an analogy: Suppose a not-too-bright child has his grandfather’s pocket watch, which happens to be a beautiful gold Elgin timepiece manufactured more than 100 years ago, and he wants to know how it works, but the only tool he has is a hammer! He taps on the watch with the hammer and it flies apart. He gathers up the pieces and looks at them, and sees cog wheels, metal plates, screws and a spring, but he still doesn’t know how a watch like this works. “Maybe I didn’t hit it hard enough”, he thinks, so he gets another watch, and hits it harder. He finds more pieces, but still doesn’t know how it works. Do you think he might eventually come to know that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts? Not by just using his hammer!