Op-Ed

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AFTER 10 YEARS of construction, the Large Hadron Collider was completed in 2009 by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). The collider, situated on the French–Swiss border, is a 27-km-long round pipe in which two beams of energy are fired toward each other so that researchers can study what happens during and after the collisions. It was completed at a cost of $8 billion, and involved the work of over 10,000 scientists around the world.

“It might sound like a lot of money, but I can’t think of any better way to spend it,” said Ryan “Spock” Neilson, local Star Trek fan and self-described science guru. “I’ve definitely heard of alternative uses for $8 billion, like food for starving nations or education for underprivileged children, but I still believe that the Large Hadron Collider was the way to go.”

What is the purpose of the Large Hadron Collider? Researchers hope to observe the Higgs particle after one of the energy beam collisions, a thus far theoretical particle whose existence would confirm the predicted Standard Model of particle physics about how forms in our universe gained mass and came into existence in accordance with the Big Bang theory.

About two weeks ago, CERN researchers announced that they increased the power of the Large Hadron Collider’s energy beams from three and a half tera-electron volts to four.

“I can’t give you an exact explanation about what a tera-electron volt is,” said Neilson when asked. “Too much complex science stuff. But I can tell you that the name sounds super cool, so it’s nice that they’re being upped.”

The raise in the power of the energy beams means scientists will gain three times as much data from the collisions as they currently do, and the number of daily collisions will now be in the tens of millions. The Large Hadron Collider operators are intent on proving the existence of the Higgs particle before the end of 2012, when the collider will be shut down for nearly two years to complete upgrades.

“It’s important to prove the particle now, not in two or three years time,” said Neilson. “Current scientists state that Big Bang happened almost 14 billion years ago, so obviously we can’t wait any longer to prove our theory about it. Honestly, I don’t know how humanity has managed to stick around this long without having proof of the Higgs particle.”

Not only would proof of the Higgs particle confirm many important theories of particle physics, but it would also open up new possibilities in super symmetry, dark matter, dark energy, and parallel universes.

“It’s true that in this sense the Large Hadron Collider research could be problematic,” noted Neilson. “I’m sure you’re very familiar with Star Trek, the feature-length film in 2009. The only reason that the planet Vulcan was destroyed by the Narada ship was because those on board Narada possessed red dark matter and created a black hole.

“I think it’s probably better if we avoid that kind of thing on Earth. But I don’t need to go into all of that—everybody knows about how dark matter influenced the unfortunate fate of Vulcan in the year 2233.”

Neilson declined to continue the interview after the interviewer stated he was not aware of Vulcan’s fate. Neilson has not returned further phone calls from his “nuclear fall-out shelter/spaceship-in-progress.”

—Keeton Wilcock