Inquiry Based Project – Almahmouda


Imagine a 27-km ring that is 175 meters underground, whose sole intention is to speed subatomic particles up to 0.999999991 c, or 3 m/s slower than the speed of light. The Large Hadron Collider, known as the LHC, is furnished with 1232 dipole magnets and 392 quadrupole magnets, each of them designed to accelerate the particles. The LHC is, as stated by writers at the Science & Technology Facilities Council, “the most powerful particle accelerator ever built.”

How does the mechanism function?

Prior to the collision of thousands of hydrogen particles, the stated magnets focus the path of the particles in order to increase the chances of a collision. CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, stated that the particles’ collision mirrors that of “firing two needles 10 kilometres apart with such precision that they meet halfway.”
LHC is cryogenically cooled to ‑271.3°C, “colder than outer space.” The reason for the cold temperature is due to the electromagnets operating in a superconducting state. In other words, the magnets would be able to conduct electricity without the loss of heat or energy.
The particles collide at 4 locations, and each location harbors a particle accelerator. The particle accelerators are:
ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus)
ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment)
CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid)
LHCb (Large Hadron Collider beauty)

ATLAS, a 7000-tonne particle detector located 100 meters below a Swiss village, is a general-purpose detector, that consists of inner detectors, calorimeters, muon spectrometers, magnet systems, and forward detectors. While it can be used to detect Higgs Boson particles, ATLAS, as a general detectors, assists in a variety of physics research, including extra dimensions and dark matter.
The ATLAS experiment obtains data by colliding particles, and the multiple detectors collect data from the collision. The magnet system bends the particles in order to measure their momentum. The detectors record the paths, momentum, and energy of the debris to draw a map of the collision. Due to the high-energetic nature of the collisions, scientists tasked with analyzing the data must sift through millions of data collections per day. However, ATLAS helps scientists by excluding certain, irrelevant data sets.

ALICE is a 10000-tonne particle detector located 56 meters below a French village that investigates the Big Bang theory. The heavy-ion detector is used to study quark-gluon plasma, a strongly interacting matter at extreme energy densities.

Quarks are the subatomic particles that make up neutrons and protons, and gluons are the subatomic particles that bind the quarks together. Quarks and gluon do not exist freely; they follow confinement, a theory that states they must be located inside protons and neutrons. So, if quarks and gluons do not exist freely, how can the scientists study quark-gluon plasma? The answer lies within heat. Quark-gluon plasma is predicted to exist at 4 trillion (4×1012) degrees Celsius, similar to the temperature at the start of the Big Bang. Furthermore, the LHC comes close to recreating the conditions at the start of the Big Bang, and scientists claim to have created quark-gluon plasma.

Just as ATLAS aids in a variety of physics research, CMS is also a general-purpose detector that weighs 12,500 tons. Although the CMS technically has the same goals as ATLAS, the CMS uses a different magnet system to study dark matter and extra dimensions. The experiment uses a cylindrical coil of superconducting cable that generates a magnetic field 100,000 times stronger than the Earth’s field.

The LHCb is a 4270-tonne detector that tests the possibility of antimatter by studying the bottom quark, often known as the “b quark” or “beauty quark.” The LHCb does not operate with an isolated detection chamber like CMS or ATLAS, rather it uses checkpoints to mark particles that travel a certain distance after their contact. Due to the evanescent nature of the b quark, scientists have to study its path to determine properties of antimatter.

So why is the LHC Relevant?

To many, including critics at TIME and scientists at the Science & Technology Facilities Council, the LHC is the “is the most powerful particle accelerator ever built.” Classmate Jawadabdi discusses the teachings of Buddhism in his IBP. When he mentioned “the teachings of Zen is to achieve enlighten by an insightful realization,” Jawadabdi might not have been aware that the LHC is the insightful realization for particle physicist.
The LHC captivates particle physicists with its discovery of the Higgs Boson, and its research on a variety of other controversial topics in the physics, and much of the scientific, world.

What is the higgs boson?

Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 6.05.37 PMAllow me to scare you by quoting Professor Alex Read of University of Oslo when he said, “Without the field that the Higgs Boson comes from, some very important fundamental particles, like the electron wouldn’t have any mass. In that case, electrons would zoom across the universe at the speed of light without being trapped into atoms. Without atoms we wouldn’t have any chemistry. Without chemistry, there would be no biology. And without biology, there would be no life, here on earth.”
Prof. Alex Read

As a physicist, the idea of entropy does not intimidate me as much as it should; the very notion that every object in the universe will degrade to atoms and fundamental particles tends to terrorize the mind. Nevertheless, Professor Alex forced me to stop and think, to truly think about the margin of error in life. It is not a matter of being “blessed” or “fortunate;” our existence is intricate and tortuous, with each aspect carefully intertwined with another.

Truly, our existence is marred with various scientific fields, such as the electromagnetic field or the Higgs field, and we cannot exist without such fields.
Our existence rests on a pillar of sand, with each grain supporting the structure of the whole. Each grain is dire to the structure, as there exists an astronomical degree of interdependent dimensions within the structure. And yet, over either an everlasting or instantaneous period of time, the pillar will degrade, and each grain of sand that composed the pillar from which you stood will disperse throughout the beach of humanity, furnishing the creation of another pillar.

What is a Higgs field? What role does the Higgs field serve in this reflection? Why am I talking about the Higgs field and not the Higgs Boson?

Simply put, imagine a large group of CERN scientists at a bar. Picture a tax collector walking through the crowd.

Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 7.06.43 PM



Will he have a hard time getting through the crowd?
Probably not!

Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 7.10.17 PM

Most tax collectors do not interact with most scientists in the same way that some particles do not interact with the Higgs field, such as the photon. Particles, such as the photon, that do not interact with Higgs field are called massless.
Now, imagine the man himself, Peter Higgs, entered the bar filled with CERN scientists.

Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 7.12.12 PM



Will Higgs have a hard time getting through the group of scientists?
Probably so! Who can resist those floating, bushy eyebrows? Personally, they remind me of an albino squirrel’s tail.

Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 7.15.19 PM

Higgs will most likely have a difficult time getting through the group, as the group of scientists carry a strong desire to discuss their work with him. The interaction with the group of scientists yields Peter Higgs’ unforgettable trait, his mass.
The interaction with the Higgs Field grants the particle its respective mass, just as the interaction with the crowd granted Peter Higgs a longer time to get through the crowd. Remember, Peter
Higgs and the tax collector were equal in mass before entering the room (0 interaction).

Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 7.21.25 PM

However, as the Higgs field interacted with each of them, they received their amount of mass.

Wait, I still haven’t explained the HIGGS BOSON.

Oh, how aware I am of that fact.
The Higgs Boson is the rumor that Albert Einstein has re-emerged from the dead. As a man in the corridor in another room whispers the news to his friend, the equally dispersed scientists catch wind and proceed to clump together to discuss.

Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 7.29.06 PM



As they finish discussing, they returning to their original spot, and another subgroup of scientists hear the rumor. The scientists that have just heard the rumor begin to clump together to discuss. Another subgroup hears, and the pattern continues throughout the group. The continuous clumping of scientists is the Higgs Boson, and that clumping is responsible for the interaction between Peter Higgs and the scientists, and to an extent, responsible for all mass. The Higgs Field is composed of Higgs Bosons.
The Higgs Boson is a grain in the pillar of sand that helps support you. The Higgs Boson has always been on the beach, and many think it’s important in knowing how the beach came into existence.

You don’t care about your mass?
That’s kind of not okay, but it’s just fine!

The Standard Model of Particle Physics, a highly-supported theory capable of explaining many particle physics phenomena, required the existence of a “mass particle,” known as variable H. Variable H, or the Higgs Boson, was discovered on July 4th, 2012 by the ATLAS detector, and the science community was ecstatic. The Standard Model of Particle Physics was finally complete!

You do not need to know the mechanics of the Standard Model to realize its significance. Flashback to high school physics, when you just discovered the power of the equation F=ma. Do you remember how much phenomena around you was explained through the equation, and its variances and derivatives? The versatility of the Standard Model has rooted the theory in the minds of particle physicists around the world, and the discovery of the Higgs-Boson only strengthened the theory.

Now that the Higgs-Boson was discovered, what’s next for the scientists at CERN?
Although discovering the Higgs-Boson was a driving factor in the creation of the LHC, the instrument is being used to research a variety of controversial topics in the physics world. The Standard Model, as a theory, states the existence of phenomena that have yet to be discovered, such as the possibility of antimatter or quark-gluon plasma.

Antimatter? Sounds very sophisticated and complex, right?

According to the Big Bang theory, there should have been equal amounts of matter and antimatter when the universe came to be. Antimatter, simply stated, is the mirror set of particles for our discovered set of particles, such as leptons, bosons, and quarks. Antimatter, however, carries the opposite charge of its respectable mirror in matter. An up quark usually carries a charge of about +⅔, but an antimatter up quark would, in theory, carry the charge of -⅔ while retaining the same mass as a normal up quark.

ALICE, the leading experiment detector behind quark-gluon plasma, is used to study quark-gluon plasma. As explained above, quark-gluon plasma is vital to research about the Big Bang, as the theory states that most of the created matter was composed of quarks and gluons, subatomic particles that are responsible for the creation of atoms. The LHC speeds hundreds of particles such as the proton and neutron up to near the speed of light, and collides them in multiple detectors, such as ALICE. The detector records the debris data, and scientists study the aftermath of the collision to try and develop a more-informed Big Bang theory.

The Large Hadron Collider and the Higgs Boson have somewhat solidified particle physics importance in the scientific community. With much of biomedical engineering studying biological and chemical methods to try and cure cancer, perhaps an approach from a subatomic perspective could offer a breakthrough solution. The LHC is not a fairy-tale haven where pointless, excessively “nerdy” studies take place; the LHC continually proves its relevance as a dynamic research facility. To many particle physicists, the LHC is the greatest place on earth, and scientific companies, such as Oracle, have been part of CERN openlab, a “cornerstone of Europe’s R&D community,” as Monica Marinucci stated. Furthermore, CERN is extending invitations to the LHC for top research universities, such as MIT. Truly, the LHC is spreading and empowering its effect on the scientific community with every project, sponsor, and endorsed university. Truly, the significance of the Large Hadron Collider and the Higgs Boson on the development of the scientific community and on the Standard Model of particle physics goes unstated.


“Best Inventions of 2008.” Time. Time Inc., 29 Oct. 2008. Web. 15 Aug. 2014

Evans, Lyndon. “The Large Hadron Collider, a Personal Recollection.” Progress of Theoretical and Experimental Physics. Oxford Journals, 10 Feb. 2014. Web. 24 July 2014.

Evans, Lyndon. “The Large Hadron Collider.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. Royal Society Publishing, 16 Jan. 2012. Web. 24 July 2014.

Salgado, C. A. “Proton-Nucleus Collisions at the LHC: Scientific Opportunities and Requirements.” CERN Document Server. Journal of Physics G: Nuclear and Particle Physics, 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 24 July 2014.

Holmes, Nigel. “What Is the Higgs?” The New York Times. The New York Times, 07 Oct. 2013. Web. 24 July 2014.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.