Saturday science subject: CERN's 'mini Big Bang'

— 6:25 PM on September 30, 2006

Scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (a.k.a. CERN) are preparing an experiment that will attempt to replicate the events of the Big Bang. The experiment will be carried out by smashing protons together using a 17-mile-long particle accelerator dubbed the Large Hadron Collider. In theory, the particle accelerator will create mini-black holes and perhaps even find new particles that could provide evidence of a multi-dimensional universe.

It could be that there is a whole new universe a millimetre away from our heads but at right-angles to the three dimensions that are here," [Dr. Brian Cox of Manchester University] said. . . . That would be a real paradigm shift - our relegation to a little sheet in a multi-dimensional universe.

For the first time in many decades we have built a machine that exceeds our powers of prediction. . . . New processes are bound to be discovered. We are truly journeying into unknown territory.

The Large Hadron Collider will be switched on next year, and Dr. Cox expects the first results to come "within a year," although he says the machine will keep running for 10-20 years. According to Cox, the probability that the particle accelerator generates a black hole that destroys the planet is "at the level of 10 to the minus 40."
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