One of the universe’s biggest mysteries, dark matter, may finally be solved when the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) returns to activity on July 5.
Unknown matter makes up more than three-quarters of the universe, but scientists still don’t know what it is.
If scientists can unlock the secrets of dark matter, it won’t be the first time the Large Hadron Collider has achieved a breakthrough.
This month marks the 10th anniversary since researchers made one of the 21st century’s greatest discoveries: the Higgs boson. Without this particle and its associated field, there is nothing in the universe as we know it.
On July 5th, the LHC will start working at full power as it prepares to search for dark matter.
British particle physicist Clara Nelist is part of the team hoping to track down dark matter – but her journey to becoming an outstanding scientist has not been easy.
“We didn’t have a physics teacher in my school,” she says.
For this reason, she was not able to expand her knowledge of physics and had to look elsewhere to study in order to keep her dream of becoming a scientist alive.
“I had to travel twice a week to go to another school for these classes. [de física]. “
A pre-university physics exam, for example, she took on her own at her school.
Despite the obstacles, Neil studied at the University of Manchester in England. Later, while pursuing his Ph.D., he began working on experiments at the LHC.
She was at CERN in 2012, when the famous Higgs Boson ad was made.
I slept outside the hall to get a seat in that room and to hear the historic moment our General Manager announced that we had discovered this new particle.
“The memory of this discovery drives me to work in these teams trying to find the next big discovery.”
The discovery of the Higgs boson was reported all over the world press.
“The Higgs boson is a really special particle because it’s related to how other elementary particles gain mass.”
“When particles interact with the Higgs field, they gain mass, and the Higgs boson is what we can find in our experiments to show the existence of the Higgs field.”
The Higgs field is an energy field that gives mass to other fundamental particles such as electrons and quarks.
The Higgs boson has been called a “God particle” because the process of gaining mass has been compared to the Big Bang, the origin of the universe.
Better and stronger
“The past few years have been really exciting as we are upgrading and overhauling our accelerators and experiments at the Large Hadron Collider,” says Nielst.
With the upgrade, the LHC becomes more powerful – more particles will collide and more collisions translate into more data to analyze.
LHC uses an incredible amount of energy – annually, CERN uses enough electricity to power a small town, or about 300,000 homes per year.
Some of that energy is used to speed up the protons to nearly the speed of light — fast enough that when they collide, they split into smaller particles.
“Two of the major improvements to the LHC are that we got a higher energy, so that’s a standard collision energy,” says Nelist.
“And we have also improved the angle of intersection at which the protons collide inside the detectors, and this increases the likelihood of two protons interacting, which increases the amount of data we can collect.”
dark matter puzzle
At CERN, they hope all this data will help them unravel the mysteries of dark matter.
“Dark matter makes up about 80 to 85% of our universe and gets its name because it doesn’t interact with light, so we can’t see it,” says Nelist.
“The interesting thing is that we don’t really know what it is.”
So far, scientists have only observed indirect evidence of dark matter. The definitive and direct discovery of dark matter particles is still a long way off.
There are several theories to explain what this particle might be. One of the favorites of scientists around the world is WIMP, or Weakly Interacting Massive Particles.
“This is still a big mystery, so we are trying to see if it can be created in our experiments.”
For scientists, it’s one of the most frustrating mysteries about our universe – that we still don’t know what it is made of.
“I would like to know what dark matter is, in my career. This is my personal goal. Otherwise, we will see what secrets the universe holds for us.”
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