Today at 12.30 pm IST, a group of physicists turn on a machine that will recreate the birth of the universe. This will be the largest experiment in human history. And Indian scientists have a major role to play in this endeavour.
For this origin of the universe experiment, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was constructed at a cost of $4.4 billion. It is the latest in a series of successively more powerful particle accelerators that have been built at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) laboratory in Geneva.
Within the LHC’s circular tunnel, 27 km in circumference, beams of protons will be accelerated to up to 99.999999% of the speed of light. When they smash together, they will generate concentrations of energy resembling those that occurred during the first trillionth of a second after the Big Bang.
Sudhir Raniwala and Rashmi Raniwala, associate professors of physics at Rajasthan University, are among the 30-odd physicists from India, who are part of this experiment. Raniwala, who has been associated with the project since its letter of intent was submitted in 1992, will be going to Geneva on September 21 to study the after-effects of the collisions
The Photon Multiplicity Detector (PMD) will play a key role in this experiment. The PMD was developed at the Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre in Kolkata, which is a body of the Department of Atomic Energy, and the machines were transported to Geneva from February this year. The machines sent from Kolkata were fitted in the LHC by June. Experts from IIT-Mumbai, Punjab University, Jammu University, Institute of Physics, Bhubaneswar, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, and Rajasthan University worked together to develop the PMD.