In the standard model for the universe, the big bang occurred 14 billion years ago and marked the beginning of the universe. The cause and reasons for the big bang are not part of the theory, but left for the fields of religion and philosophy. Interestingly, ancient Jewish kabbalistic writings ranging from 700-1,500 years old concluded that the universe expanded from an object the size of a pea, roughly 15.34 billion years ago. Dr. William Percival of the University of Edinburgh leads a group of standard model cosmologists, and they calculate that the big bang occurred 13.89 billion years ago, plus or minus half a billion years. Most of the matter of
Data collected using the LHC may also shed light on why particles and atoms have the mass that they do. The LHC scientists plan to perform experiments designed to shed light on the distribution of mass in the universe—perhaps most importantly, that of dark matter. Contemporary models of cosmology suggest that the visible universe is only about 4 percent of the total matter in the universe, and the other 96 percent is made up of dark matter and dark energy, both extremely difficult to detect and study. When some dark matter is captured LHC scientists hope to be among the first to examine its properties, and consider the implications it has for the way the universe behaves.
Antimatter is similar to matter but has the opposite charge. A positron is similar to an electron but has a positive instead of a negative charge. Models for the early history of the universe suggest that at the big bang, equal amounts of matter and antimatter were created. When matter and antimatter meet they annihilate each other, releasing energy but losing matter. Scientists believe that most matter-antimatter pairs annihilated each other during early collisions, leav ing only a small amount of matter in the entire universe, that forms all the matter visible (and invisible) today. Some experiments at the LHC will be geared to examine the differences between matter and antimatter and to try to understand why a small preference for one to be preserved led to such an imbalance in the universe.
The first second of the universe was the most dramatic second in the history of time. In this moment the universe expanded from essentially nothing, from a cocktail of fundamental particles about the size of a pea, into a rapidly expanding universe that would have the dimensions of time and space and the properties of mass and velocity. In the present universe ordinary matter consists of atoms, containing a nucleus made of protons and neutrons, in turn made of quarks that are bound together by gluons. Presently the bond between quarks and gluons is very strong, but in the first seconds of the early universe conditions would have been too hot and energetic for the gluons to hold the quarks together. The LHC will be able to reproduce the conditions in the first microseconds of the universe, so that scientists can investigate the physi cal environment of this hot, high-energy mixture of quarks and gluons, called a quark-gluon plasma.
There are complicated relationships between space and time. As the German-born American physicist Albert Einstein theorized, the three dimensions of space are related to time, and intense gravity fields can warp the space-time continuum. Further theoretical work has proposed that there may be even more hidden dimensions of space. String theory suggests that there may be numerous other dimensions to space, but they are difficult to observe. However, it is possible that these other dimensions may become detectable at the high energy conditions that will be created in the Large Hadron Collider.
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