This morning I went to the Science Museum to a private tour of Collider: step inside the world’s greatest experiment. Was it worth the long journey that the tube strike entailed? Yes it was indeed. The exhibition ends on May 5th, 2014, and had I been there by myself it would not have been self-explanatory enough for the novice I am. Here is what I have learned today thanks to the fact that the tour was led by its curator, Dr Harry Cliff.
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland is a wonder of scientific engineering that discovered the Higgs Boson. The exhibition gives you a clear sense of how small one would feel next to the machine: 15 meters long, weighing 12,000 tons, it contains enough iron to make two Eiffel towers out of it.
Its purpose is not less grand than it physical presence: understanding the universe and its creation. How so? By colliding protons.
The proton is a subatomic particle with the symbol p or p+ and a positive electric charge of 1 elementary charge. One or more protons are present in the nucleus of each atom.
When two protons collides in the LHC, they create matter. This phenomenon is the opposite of what happens with a nuclear bomb, which creates energy out of matter. In the mid-1960’s, Peter Higgs developed a theory according to which an invisible energy field exists everywhere in the universe that became known as the Higgs field. In this field is a fundamental particle, the Higgs Boson, that continuously interact with other particles and creates mass.
Trying to explain the creation of mass is an ongoing journey that started 50 years ago. Along the way, the management of the unprecedented amount of data put Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist and former CERN employee, on his way to create the World Wide Web and the future of cancer therapy is yet another side effect. On July 2012, the discovery of the Higgs Boson was announced and the theory that would explain the existence of mass is on its way to being confirmed.
We cannot fully foresee the consequences of this discovery, and Dr Cliff reminded us that we did not realize that research on the electrons would lead to the creation of all the electronics that we use daily, rarely thinking about the laser in our DVD player.
In March 2012, a few months before the discovery of the Higgs Boson, Galerie E.G.P was presenting its first solo show of Oliver Bragg entitled The Super Collider Will Eat Your Brain where New meanings and/or connotations were formed, where fragments of real world culture could be found without being familiar. By re-aligning the space between everyday things the artist formed a parallel universe with abstract narratives, whose origins were traceable through a process akin to Internet browsing. Could the so-called ‘G-od particle’ generate such a novel universe?