On a collision course for the Big Bang

22nd August 2008 at 01:00

Teachers and pupils can follow the world's largest experiment to recreate the Big Bang that formed the universe. Podcasts and worksheets will help 14- to 16-year-olds understand the huge step forward in particle physics on September 10.

Physicists will then switch on the Large Hadron Collider 100 metres underground at the massive Cern laboratory, near Geneva, on the Swiss- French border.

It is the climax of 20 years of development by the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

Two beams of subatomic particles, called hadrons, will travel in opposite directions inside the circular 27km particle accelerator. They will gain energy with every lap until scientists cause them to collide head on.

The smallest known particles created will be the fundamental building blocks of all things.

Physicists say our understanding of the universe is about to change. The experiment, they say, will revolutionise our understanding, from the miniscule world deep within atoms to the vastness of the universe.

The Standard Model of particle physics has served physicists well for decades as a means of understanding the fundamental laws of Nature. But it does not tell the whole story.

Physicists are confident that the Large Hadron Collider will push their knowledge forward.

There are many theories as to what will result from these high-energy particle collisions, but scientists from 20 countries working on the multi-billion pound experiment are sure that a brave new world of research will emerge. They believe they will be closer to understanding the workings of the entire universe.

To tie in with this historic day, schools will have access to the slideshows and videos that were shown to teachers on earlier visits.

For use in lessons, the Science and Technology Facilities Council has developed a range of posters, DVDs, podcasts and worksheets. Three films have been produced with Teachers' TV, exploring the history of particle physics and explaining how scientists now hope the facility will help answer key questions about the universe.

A number of newspaper opinion pieces are available to help prompt discussions on the value of "blue skies" research projects.

A website has also been built for teaching 14- to 16-year-olds and will allow pupils to "drive" a simulator of the collider and listen to young people quizzing scientists.

The Science Museum has also created a game on its website which illustrates how scientists go about their search for new particles.

For more details and a range of web links, go to www.lhc.ac.uk and click on For Teachers.


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