Step aside Lady Gaga. The next musical craze might soon come from the CERN particle accelerator on the French-Swiss border. (The acronym, in French, stands for Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire [European Council for Nuclear Research].)
Scientists there are using the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) to smash subatomic particles together at nearly the speed of light. They hope to unravel some of the cosmic mysteries of the universe — namely, the Big Bang, by way of the God particle. And, now, they have a creative side project: converting subatomic activity into sound.
This is heady stuff — with a good beat and some rich word goings-on.
“Atom” — and its adjective, atomic — comes from Greek, meaning “something that is undivided.” It’s somewhat illogical, then, to have a word like “subatomic” that refers to a piece of matter smaller than an indivisible piece of matter. This is what happens when science advances beyond preexisting terminology.
According to the Standard Model of particle physics, there are hundreds of subatomic particles. We are not going to name them all. You’ve got other blogs to read; we’ve got to have a lexicographic hootenanny.
One of the most common type of subatomic particle is called a quark. When several quarks are grouped together, they are known as a hadron — hence, the “h” in LHC. Another kind of subatomic particle is the boson, named for physicist Satyendra Nath Bose.
Scientists aren’t sure how subatomic particles gain mass and become atoms. An answer, however, could unlock clues to the origins of the universe. One theory suggests that a unique, presently unobservable boson — called the Higgs boson — imparts mass on other bosons. The Higgs boson also goes by a more grandiose name: the God particle. This phrase, while high on drama, is generally disliked by physicists who prefer the more sober perspective of the scientific method.
The folks at CERN claim they have captured some evidence of Higgs activity. On their musical Web site, they have purportedly captured God particles decaying.