novembro 08, 2008

The hunt for the God particle.

Physicists from all over the world are racing to prove the existence of a particle that's surmised to be at the heart of the matter: the Higgs boson also known as the "God particle" because it might ultimately lead to a grand theory of the universe.

Molecules are made of atoms; atoms are made of particles called protons, neutrons, and electrons; protons and neutrons are made of odd things called quarks and gluons—but already we're into a fuzzy zone. If there's one truly extraordinary concept to emerge from the past century of inquiry, it's that the cosmos we see was once smaller than an atom.
Our existence, our entire universe, emerged from things that happened at the smallest imaginable scale. The big bang theory tells us that the known universe once had no dimensions at all—no up or down, no left or right, no passage of time, and laws of physics beyond our vision.
How does an infinitely dense universe become a vast and spacious one? And how is it filled with matter?

Space, time, matter... everything originated in the Big Bang, an incommensurably huge explosion that happened 13.7 billion years ago. The Universe was then incredibly hot and dense but only a few moments after, as it started to cool down, the conditions were just right to give rise to the building blocks of matter – in particular, the quarks and electrons of which we are all made. A few millionths of a second later, quarks aggregated to produce protons and neutrons, which in turn were bundled into nuclei three minutes later.
Then, as the Universe continued to expand and cool, things began to happen more slowly. It took 380,000 years for the electrons to be trapped in orbits around nuclei, forming the first atoms. These were mainly helium and hydrogen, which are still by far the most abundant elements in the Universe.
Another 1.6 million years later, gravity began to take control as clouds of gas began to form stars and galaxies.

The Most of the everything in the Universe is found to be made from twelve basic building blocks called fundamental particles, governed by four fundamental forces. Our best understanding of how these twelve particles and three of the forces are related to each other is encapsulated in the Standard Model of particles and forces. An essential ingredient of the Standard Model, a particle called the Higgs boson, has yet to be found in an experiment. The race is on to hunt for the Higgs – the key to the origin of particle mass.

No experiment has yet directly detected the Higgs boson; the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, the world’s largest and most complex scientific instrument, which came on line on 10 September 2008, is expected to provide experimental evidence that will confirm or reject the particle's existence when fully operational in 2009.


Adaptader from National Geographic Society 2008 and European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)

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