Dark Matter, here we come! Scientists hope to discover elusive particles that make up as much as 25 percent of all mass in the universe
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Hopes are high in the new year for one of the most astounding machines ever built by humanity. The Large Hadron Collider in Cern, Switzerland, is about to be powered on afresh, with twice the power as before. With increased power, physicists expect to unlock more mysteries of the universe, and possibly even discover elusive dark matter.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Deep under the earth in Switzerland, a 17 mile circle, ultra-vacuum tube can fire protons at the speed of light. The world's most powerful supercomputer system can observe the particles in the tube, and what happens when they smash together, generating temperatures over 100,000 times that on the surface of the Sun.
The goal of the collider is to recreate the conditions of the Big Bang in a massive laboratory. Scientists are confident that the universe was created in the instant of the Big Bang, a theory first proposed by Catholic professor Monseigneur Georges Lemaitre at the Catholic University of Leuven.
Scientists have a good working model for the universe that seems to explain how and why the universe is as it is, but the model has gaps. For example, the matter we can observe in the universe composes just 4 percent of that created in the Big Bang, the rest of it exists as energy and in largely unobservable states such as dark matter.
Dark matter is believed to hold galaxies together and could comprise as much as 25 percent of the mass of the universe. Without dark matter, galaxies would fly apart and the universe would appear much different. There's just one problem - aside from mathematical calculations, scientists have never observed dark matter, which is a significant problem in science which relies on observable, quantifiable evidence.
However, researchers are undeterred. They hope that when the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is powered on in March, they will be able to conduct their most ambitious tests yet and there is a chance they could create dark matter itself. The particles may only be observable for the tiniest fraction of a second, but that's all they need to capture the data.
Previously, the LHC discovered the Higgs-Bosun, also known as the "God Particle." This particle was predicted by physicists to give other particles their mass. Its discovery vindicated their theories and helped justify the LHC's nearly $10 billion price tag.
Several nations have contributed to pay for research at Cern, and the ongoing scientific mission there is a testament to international cooperation.
Answering these fundamental questions about the origin of humanity reveals where we came from, the manner of our creation, and perhaps something about the mind of God Himself. Few people appreciate the work done at Cern because it appears so esoteric. However, similar work done over a century ago on X-rays, radio waves, microwaves, and other phenomena which was considered esoteric at the time, today forms the backbone of modern civilization.
Without the work done then, we would not enjoy the modern conveniences and advances which make our lives easier, longer and more comfortable. It is likely that our great grandchildren will benefit as much from the research happening this year at Cern, justifying the price tag.
We can do no better service to our grandchildren than to leave to them a better world than we inherited from our fathers.
The first experiments will be run in May so we should have some preliminary results as early as this summer.
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