Skip to main content

The Magic of a New Large Hadron Collier

by Angel Zhou, Branson School

Large Hadron Collider,  Switzerland
This week, the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, will restart after a two-year hiatus. The pause was intentional, giving technicians and engineers time to ramp up the collision energy intended to push the laws of physics to their limits. 

The LHC, completed in 2008 by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) at a cost of around $10 billion, is the world's largest particle accelerator: an extremely long underground tunnel that allows physicists to conduct some pretty intense experiments. In essence, these experiment involve shooting beams of particles around the ring, using enormous magnets to speed them up to 99.9999 percent of the speed of light, then crashing them together. Sophisticated sensors capture all sorts of data on the particles that result from these collisions. In particle collisions, the higher the energy, the bigger the payoff, as the energy of the colliding particles gets translated into the masses of the debris, following the E=mc^2 prescription. As particles collide, their energy morphs into a shower of new particles that come flying off from the collision point.

The LHC's biggest finding so far was the discovery of an elementary particle called the Higgs boson. Since the 1960s, the Higgs boson was thought to exist as a part of the Higgs field: an invisible field that permeates all space and exerts a drag on every particle. It had been calculated that after being formed during a collision, the Higgs boson would immediately decay into other particles in a specific ratio. Data collected after protons were crashed together showed evidence of these particles in the ratio predicted. In 2012, after three years of experiments at the LHC, physicists confirmed the Higgs boson does indeed exist. 

Higgs Boson
All the experiments conducted at the LHC so far are part of "run one.” After several years of upgrading the LHC's magnets, which speed up and control the flow of particles, and data sensors, it'll begin "run two": a new series of experiments that will involve crashing particles together with nearly twice as much energy as before. These more powerful collisions will allow scientists to keep discovering new and perhaps larger particles, and also look more closely at the Higgs boson to observe how it behaves under different conditions.

To learn more about the what scientists hope to discover with the updated Large Hadron Collider, such as mini black holes, more higgs bosons, extra dimension, and perhaps, pink elephants, join us on Wednesday, March 25th for Dr. Lauren Tompkins’ seminar, “Extra dimensions, mini black holes and.. Pink Elephants?: Exciting times ahead at the Large Hadron Collider” in Room 207 at Terra Linda High School in San Rafael. For more information, visit Marin Science Seminar's Facebook page:
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

"Gnashing, Gnawing, and Grinding: The Science of Teeth" - An Interview with Tesla Monson of UC Berkeley

by Shoshana Harlem, Terra Linda High School

Dr. Tesla Monson studies mammals, especially their skulls and teeth. She is a researcher at UC Berkeley and has a BA in cultural anthropology, an MA in biological anthropology, and PhD in Integrative Biology. 

1. What made you want to study mammals?
Growing up in Washington State, I was always really interested in biological life, and particularly animals and plants. When I first learned about Paleolithic cave art in my undergraduate anthropology class, which is some of the oldest and most beautiful art, dated to more than 30,000 years ago, I became fascinated with the seemingly timeless question, "What makes us human?", "What makes me, me?, "What makes humans unique from other animals?" And "What makes non-human animals different from each other?" Because these questions are focused on trying to place humans within the context of evolution and life on this planet, and because humans are mammals, I have been …

All About Lysosomes

by Angel Zhou, Branson School

Lysosomes, discovered and named by Belgian biologist Christian de Duve, who eventually received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1974, are membrane-enclosed organelles that function as the digestive system of the cell, both degrading material taken up from outside the cell and digesting obsolete components of the cell itself. The membrane around a lysosome allows the digestive enzymes to work at the pH they require. In their simplest form, lysosomes are visualized as dense spherical vacuoles, but they can display considerable variation in size and shape as a result of differences in the materials that have been taken up for digestion. Lysosomes contain an array of enzymes capable of breaking down biological polymers, including proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, and lipids.

The lysosome’s enzymes are synthesized in the rough endoplasmic reticulum. The enzymes are released from Golgi apparatus in small vesicles which ultimately fuse with acidic vesicles ca…

Bacteria, Botulism, and Beauty

--> By Talya Klinger, MSS Intern
What do foodborne illnesses, neck dystonia treatments, and celebrities’ beauty regimens have in common? Clostridium botulinum, baratii, and other species of Clostridium bacteria produce all of the above and more. These seemingly innocuous, rod-shaped bacteria, commonly found in soil and in the intestinal tracts of fish and mammals, produce one of the most deadly biological substances: botulinum toxin, a neurotoxin that intercepts neurotransmitters and paralyzes muscles in the disease known as botulism. Nonetheless, botulinum toxin isn’t all bad: this chemical not only protects the bacteria from intense heat and high acidity, but it makes for an effective treatment for medical conditions as wide-ranging as muscle spasms, chronic migraines, and, yes, wrinkles. 

Clostridium botulinum and similar bacteria can make their way into the human body in a number of ways. Wounds infected with Clostridium botulinum or spores ingested by infants can lead to …