Search for elementary particles hindered by time travel
By: Irma Zhang
Posted: 10/29/09More than a year has passed since the world's largest and most expensive physics experiment shut down due to technical difficulties. With intense maintenance and painstakingly tedious corrections, the infamous Large Hadron Collider is back to working standard, and is expected to start once again in December. But according to two physicists, the repairs may have been for naught and the original breakdown was destined to occur.
After observing several strings of bad luck, such as cancellations or breakdowns, that have haunted other supercolliders, physicists Holger Bech Nielson of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen and Masao Ninomiya of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics, have proposed that the sought-after product of the collider is so destructive to nature that it travels backwards through time to stop the collider before it can even be created.
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world's largest particle accelerator, with a 17-mile circumference that lies 570 feet underground near Geneva, Switzerland. The accelerator was built by CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, for the purpose of finding forces and particles that existed in the first trillionth of a second of the Big Bang. The LHC has been in the works for 15 years and has cost $9 billion so far.
Protons within the collider are accelerated until they reach a peak energy of seven trillion electron volts, and then collide together to form primordial fireballs.
Although some doomsday theorists speculate that planet-consuming black holes would subsequently form, physicists believe that the collision would instead generate what is known as the Higgs boson, the "god" particle that supposedly explains the origin of mass in the universe.
Nielson and Ninomiya have published multiple papers with titles such as "Test of Effect From Future in Large Hadron Collider: a Proposal" and "Search for Future Influence From LHC." According to the New York Times, in an unpublished essay, Nielson claims, "One could even almost say that we have a model for God," since the very existence of the Higgs is so contrary to the nature of the universe.
This negative influence of Ninomiya and Nielson's proposed Higgs product could be one possible reason that the United States Superconducting Supercollider, also designed to find the Higgs, could have been canceled back in 1993. Furthermore, they predict that all other future Higgs-seekers will be blocked by fate.
However, Neilson and Ninomiya's theory has been met with much criticism. "When I heard about this proposal, I thought it was either a tongue-in-cheek parody or an attempt to see how many people were gullible enough to believe it," Barry Blumenfield, a professor at Hopkins specializing in neutrino physics and hadron-collider physics states. "I don't believe this proposal any more than I believe a field goal kicker missed in the last 2 seconds because of ripples going backward in time that prevented him from making it."
Furthermore, some argue that it's possible that the Higgs boson already exists, but as far as we can tell, the passage of time has not been altered. "Cosmic rays hit nuclei in our atmosphere at higher energies than person-kind will produce [at] the LHC. If the Higgs particle exists then cosmic rays will be producing them all the time," Bruce Barnett, a professor in the Hopkins Physics Department who performs research at the CERN Large Hadron Collider, said. "The possibility of a Higgs being produced does not cause cosmic rays to stop coming from outer space into our atmosphere."
Although it would seem that such a ridiculous-sounding theory would be immediately dismissed by the physics community, the fact that the two proposers are prominent thinkers in the field of particle physics makes their ideas even more controversial. Nielson, for one, is one of the founders of string theory, which combines quantum mechanics and general relativity to explain the most basic components of the universe.
Undaunted, however, Neilson and Ninomiya have proposed a test, using a random-number generator to distinguish bad luck from events prohibited by the future.
The LHC is scheduled to start accelerating protons to an energy of 3.5 trillion electron volts by the end of this year, and then build up to 7 trillion electron volts by the end of 2010. But according to Nielson and Ninomiya, even if it does reach 3.5 trillion electron volts, the energy will not be large enough to generate a Higgs. But no matter what happens at CERN, for elementary particle hunters, the theory is the ultimate statement of pessimism.
© Copyright 2009 News-Letter (Johns Hopkins)