In his newest book, Dr. Paul Halpern, professor of physics, and fellow in the humanities, has turned his attention to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a gigantic scientific instrument near Geneva, that was completed in 2008 by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), at a cost of nearly $8 billion.
Should the first experimental results be successful, it could give scientists new insight into the birth of the universe, how it evolved, what it’s made of, and what governs its behavior. But with hope and anticipation for astounding discoveries also comes fear. Could any of the tiny objects created disrupt nature’s delicate balance and wreck havoc? Fears run high that mini-black holes could be born in fiery collisions, drop into the center of the Earth and devour it from within. Yet, as the new book will show, such highly theoretical objects, if they exist, would vanish in the blink of the eye and have scarcely no effect on anything around them before they decay.
After a coolant leak and magnet failure shut it down in September 2008, new safeguards were put in place and it is projected to restart and begin collecting data in October 2009. The powerful device will be used by physicists to study the smallest known particles – the fundamental building blocks of all things. This project will replicate the incredibly energetic conditions just after the Big Bang and could produce massive exotic particles unseen since those times.
Understanding the science behind the LHC can be difficult for anyone without an advanced degree in particle physics. Collider: The Search For The World’s Smallest Particles (Wiley, August 2009, $27.95) by Paul Halpern, PhD, goes beyond explaining the mysteries of quantum mechanics and Einstein’s theories to sort through a century of actual experiments, revealing how we know what we know, and what we hope to find out.
The author of the popular science book What's Science Ever Done for Us?, Dr. Halpern knows what it takes to explain complex terms in accessible language, and enlighten readers on the importance of experimental high-energy physics.
· We don't understand what more than 95 percent of the universe is made of. The LHC may identify the rest of it.
· The God Particle, a.k.a. the Higgs-boson, is the highly sought after missing link in experimental high-energy physics. The LHC might discover it.
· String theory – our best guess so far to explain the building blocks of the universe – predicts that every known particle has a massive supersymmetric companion. The LHC might produce these elusive super partners.
While the U.S.
was once a scientific leader in experimental high-energy physics, Congress voted to cut off funding in 1993 for what would have been a far bigger project, giving the advantage to the Europeans by making the LHC the world's only hope for these scientific discoveries. Besides finding the elusive God Particle, the LHC might also enable scientists to find dark matter, dark energy, and maybe even portals to higher dimensions.
Dr. Halpern received a PhD in theoretical physics, a MA in physics and a BA in physics and mathematics. He was also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Scholarship, and an Athenaeum Society Literary Award. He has written many widely acclaimed popular science books and articles, including The Cyclical Serpent, Cosmic Wormholes and The Great Beyond. He has appeared on numerous television and radio programs, including “History Sunday: Countdown to Armageddon” on the History Channel, “Future Quest,” a PBS series, as well as the Public Radio shows “Worldview” and “Radio Times.” His work has been featured in USA Today, the Philadelphia Inquirer, ABCNews.com and other media.