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Big BangÂ… Bigger Science?

Big BangÂ… Bigger Science?

By Prof. Paul Padley
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Rice University

In order to make great scientific discoveries, it is important to build great experiments. Outside Geneva, Switzerland, the most complex experiment ever built will soon start collecting data, and it is worth asking why scientists are convinced that something new will be found with it. Let’s look at the history of Big Bang science and see what lessons we can draw from that.

In 1929, Edwin Hubble published his paper A Relation Between Distance and Radial Velocity among Extra Galactic Nebulae.

http://www.pnas.org/content/15/3/168.full.pdf+html

This is the paper which established that the universe is expanding, in a way consistent with there being a “big bang.”  What is interesting to note is that Hubble was working at one of the greatest observatories of its day, Mt. Wilson. He was using the 100-inch telescope, which was a phenomenal instrument for its day and by having access to it, was able to collect the data that established what we now call the “Hubble Constant.”

Read about the history of Mt. Wilson at:

http://www.astro.caltech.edu/palomar/history.html)

This was a revolutionary observation that changed how we understand the universe.

Measuring the Hubble Constant is one of the fundamental cosmological measurements that can be made. Refining the precision of that constant is an important goal for science and was one of the motivating goals for building the Hubble Space Telescope.  The name was no coincidence, it was a name not just in honor of Edwin Hubble, but in honor of one of its primary scientific missions — measuring the Hubble Constant.

More than just measuring the Hubble Constant, it turns out this telescope has completely upset our view of the universe.  When I was a student, I was taught that there was a Big Bang and that the universe was expanding. Gravity was acting on the matter in the universe and the expansion was slowing down. An important question was whether the universe was open or closed, that is — would gravity cause the universe to collapse back in on itself, or not? Scientists were hoping to resolve that question with the Hubble Space Telescope.

What they found was completely unexpected: It appears that the expansion of the universe is not slowing down, in fact, it is speeding up. The expansion of the universe is accelerating!  This was a completely surprising result. I remember sitting in the auditorium at CERN when Saul Perlmutter of the Supernova Cosmology Project (http://supernova.lbl.gov/) presented this result (which was  simultaneously obtained by the High-z Supernova Search team (http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/supernova//HighZ.html). The auditorium was full of skeptical scientists ready to shoot down the claim.  However, one by one, all the hostile questions were answered and the result has stood the test of time.

The accelerating expansion of the universe is now one of the greatest mysteries in science.  What is clear is that the universe is not going to collapse down on itself — it is being blown apart. What is also clear is that it took a new facility such as the Hubble Space Telescope to make this amazing discovery possible.  The scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN are anticipating that they are going to make amazing unanticipated discoveries  it’s what happens when you build tremendous new facilities.

Learn more about cosmology and the related facilities at http://www.aip.org/history/cosmology/index.htm

Take a closer look at some of the Hubble Telescopes “Greatest Hits” by clicking an image below:

The Past and the Future of the Universe

April 15, 2013 FUTURE|Nation No Comments
The Past and the Future of the Universe

How did the universe begin? And, once knowing, will we ever be the same?

Interview with Dr. Paul Padley by Arthur G. Insana

How did the universe begin? And, once knowing, will we ever be the same?
Imagine a time when the mysterious and fundamental secrets of the universe finally have been answered and are as accepted as knowing that the Earth is round. Imagine a world in which other dimensions are opened up to exploration, or that limitless energy sources finally solve the global crises we face.
Now imagine that that time has come, and that the world of imaginationÂ… is reality.
Experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), at CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland, are on the verge of potentially not only discovering those unsolved universal mysteries, but also of opening the door to a mind-boggling array of new technologies that may promise to eclipse the notions brought to us by the science of fiction.


Imagine a time when the mysterious and fundamental secrets of the universe finally have been answered and are as accepted as knowing that the Earth is round. Imagine a world in which other dimensions are opened up to exploration, or that limitless energy sources finally solve the global crises we face.

Now imagine that that time has come, and that the world of imaginationÂ… is reality.

Experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), at CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland, are on the verge of potentially not only discovering those unsolved universal mysteries, but also of opening the door to a mind-boggling array of new technologies that may promise to eclipse the notions brought to us by the science of fiction.

As we beta-launch the-future.com, we are proud to open our doors to some of the worldÂ’s most ground-breaking theoristsÂ… pioneers on the razorÂ’s edge of tomorrow.

We welcome Dr. Paul Padley, professor of physics at Rice University, and a lead physicist of experimental research for the LHC. Dr. Padley has agreed to become a regular editorial contributor to our feature: Portals – an open channel of communication with leading global thinkers from a variety of disciplines integral to our evolution as a species. Dr Padley also is joining our Board of Directors, as a science mentor and advisor.

For this first overview of the operations at CERN, we spoke with Dr. Padley to foster a better understanding of the LHCÂ’s purpose and goals. Subsequent interviews and articles will delve more deeply into the ColliderÂ’s ongoing experiments, with supplemental articles from Dr. Padley, himself. (See his first accompanying article: Revolutions in Science.)

t-f/c: Can you explain what the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is?

Dr. P: The LHC is a particle accelerator which takes protons and accelerates them to 7 TeV protons crashing into 7 TeV protons (7 TeV energy is the energy a proton would have after being accelerated to 7,000,000,000,000 Volts), which is seven times more energetic than has ever been achieved before. [According to CERN’s run plan for the next year, the accelerator will initially start at  3.5TeV on 3.5TeV and then will be raised  to 5 on 5.] It (the Collider) will take two beams of protons, which are going in opposite directions, around the ring. They will hit, head-on and, in those collisions, new matter, new processes, should reveal themselves.

This computer-generated image shows the location of the 27-km LHC tunnel (in blue) on the Swiss-France border. The four main experiments (ALICE, ATLAS, CMS, and LHCb) are located in underground caverns connected to the surface by 50 m to 150 m pits. Part of the pre-acceleration chain is shown in grey.

This computer-generated image shows the location of the 27-km LHC tunnel (in blue) on the Swiss-France border. The four main experiments (ALICE, ATLAS, CMS, and LHCb) are located in underground caverns connected to the surface by 50 m to 150 m pits. Part of the pre-acceleration chain is shown in grey.

So what’s going on is… we’re harnessing Einstein’s equation E=MC²,  to take the energy we’re putting into those protons and convert it into mass energy and make new unobserved particles – particles that haven’t been seen before in nature… or see processes taking place, that we haven’t seen before in nature.

The processes and the particles that we see in this, are things that must have happened in the beginning of the universe, or shortly after the Big BangÂ… and these processes weÂ’re examining are what give rise to the structure of the universe. WeÂ’re actually, really trying to do cosmology on a microscopic scaleÂ…weÂ’re trying to understand the underlying physics that goes on at a sub-atomic level. ThereÂ’s a deep connection with what we see in the universe, and what we see on the microscopic scaleÂ…that weÂ’ll be examining.

t-f/c: How do you make that assumption?

Dr. P: We know some of the properties of the universeÂ… we know some of the things we seeÂ… and we canÂ’t explain what we see in the universe without invoking something that we call the Standard Model of Particle Physics. You canÂ’t explain where the elements come from, you canÂ’t explain where the quarks that make up the protons and neutrons come from, and how they interact, without using the Standard Model of Particle Physics. So, what weÂ’re doing, at these high energies, is replicating a point in time, shortly after the Big Bang, where the energy density of the universe is comparable to the energy densities weÂ’ll have in these collisions.

t-f/c: Still, the experiments begin with a basic assumption?

Dr. P: ThereÂ’s an assumption being made that the laws of physics today, are the same laws of physics that existed at the beginning of the universe. ItÂ’s not totally outside the realm of debate, so people can call that into question.

t-f/c: So, your experiments are an attempt to recreate The Big BangÂ… or, maybe, The Little Big Bang?

Dr. P: I do experimental particle physics…we’re trying to understand the most fundamental constituents of matter, and how they interact. We’re trying to understand the most basic elements of the universe. Now, we know that when we look out at the universe, it’s comprised, largely, of dark energy and dark matter. So, about 95% of what’s out there in the universe has not been identified by science. And this is a big mystery. There is a sub-set, a small minority, of scientists, who explain dark energy by saying…”well, the laws of physics could be a bit different…and what you’re seeing could be an effect of that.” But the thing that you see with the Hubble telescope is an accelerating expansion of the universe…and that’s a complete mystery. So, for me, this is an opportunity. We don’t know what 95% of the universe is made out of – let’s try and make some of that stuff in the lab.

* * *

In upcoming coverage of the LHC, weÂ’ll examine the importance of the research, the global cooperation required to mount this enormous effort of science and the potential applications of the discoveries made.

For example, it sometimes takes decades for technological applications to arise from pure scientific theory and research: Did you know that your Global Positioning System (GPS) requires the application of both EinsteinÂ’s special theory of relativity and his general theory of relativity to correctly calculate your position? Without correcting for the effects predicted by those theories, the GPS would never get you to your destinationÂ… at least, not the one you intended!

Or, that this year marks the 20th anniversary of the World Wide Web – coincidently, a monumental technological advancement that not only makes this communication possible, but originally was developed by the deep thinkers at CERN, for their own internal use. http://info.cern.ch/www20/

As we embark upon our speciesÂ’ journey toward tomorrow, it should not be lost on us, that to understand the future, pioneers like Dr, Padley and his colleagues must look back to the very beginning of time. AGI

Revolutions in Science

By Dr. Paul Padley, Professor of Physics, Rice University

In a recent blog on the Guardian website: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2009/jun/22/end-science-unified-theory-mavericks

Ehsan Masood posed the question “Are we witnessing the end of science?” This is an excellent discussion and it is correctly pointed out that the LHC at CERN may lead to the revolution. There was an interesting comment made that is worthy of a bit more conversation: Masood writes, “Revolutions in scientific thinking are always difficult – but perhaps one reason why we may see fewer of them in the future is because of the highly professional way in which modern science is organized. It takes a lot of courage to challenge conventionally accepted views, and it needs a certain amount of stamina to constantly battle those who want to protect the status quo. Mavericks do not do well in large organizations, which is what some scientific fields have become.”

As someone who is working on one of the LHC experiments, I would like to give an insiderÂ’s view that is quite contrary. The major experiments at the LHC have been preparing to analyze the data that will be forthcoming when the LHC is turned back on. Of course no one knows, in advance, what will be found (you wouldn’t need to do the experiment if you already had the answer) and so the collaborations survey the theoretical ideas that are in existence and, using simulations, see how well they can test these ideas. They have produced large documents called Physics TDRs that survey all the ideas that have been put through this process. This is like a dress rehearsal for when the data will be available.

What is striking, incredibly striking, about these documents is that a large fraction of the effort is exploring the potential for discovering evidence of new and revolutionary science. The CMS experiment (full disclosure, I am a collaborator on that experiment), has assets of Web pages for the public about the physics that will be pursued by the experimentÂ…

http://cms.web.cern.ch/cms/Physics/index.html and you can see that physics, beyond what is known, is the major goal for the experiment. The fact that we might not have a clue as to what that will be is fully acknowledgedÂ…

http://cms.web.cern.ch/cms/Physics/Rewriting/index.html. Quoting that Web page:

“The Higgs mechanism and speculative theories like supersymmetry are exciting physics and will be scrutinized and tested at CMS. But if they are not correct and we, instead, see new, interesting and different phenomena, this could launch a revolution in physics, sending theorists back to the drawing board and challenging our ideas about the world at the most basic level.”

For me, and most of my colleagues, this is the foremost goal of the experiment. In fact, this is even a bit self serving, because the greatest rewards in academia go to those who have challenged the status quo and had their ideas prevail. (Einstein was unable to get a job in academia until he had done so — he had to work in the Swiss patent office until then.)   Like all good science, the ideas and results that come from the experiments  will be scrutinized and challenged. However, the correct ideas will prevail. Most of us expect that there will be a revolutionary change in our view of the universe.

http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=495

Arthur G. Insana is Co-founder/Publisher & Editor-In-Chief of the-future.com.

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