Israelis pitch in on largest particle accelerator

Data from 'Atlas' could change world's view of nature within a year.

atlas 298 (photo credit: Technion)
atlas 298
(photo credit: Technion)
Two Israeli physicists - Prof. Shlomit Terem and Prof. Yoram Rosen of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology - are among 1,700 from 150 universities in 30 countries who are building a giant sensor that will be part of the world's largest particle accelerator. The sensor, called Atlas, will be completed and installed at the facility near Geneva before the end of 2007. "It may be that during its first year of operation," said Terem and Rosen, "we will discover phenomena that will completely change our world view - and if not, we will have another 15 years to get a good picture of the structures and materials in nature and the secrets for the Four Forces of Nature. "It could be that the map of particles known to us today will change completely, thanks to the data we will collect in the Atlas. We will also learn about the phenomenon of CP violation, which may be responsible for the dominance of matter over anti-matter - in other words, we may know better why we are in this Universe." The circumference of the LHC accelerator will be 27 kilometers, and the energy that it will release in the collision between two protons will be seven times greater than that of any particle accelerator in the past. The facility will be housed 100 meters underground and will consume the same amount of electricity as the nearby city of Geneva, the Technion said on Monday. The crashes will take place at four points on the accelerator's diameter/ At each of them a sensor will be installed to measure the products of the collision Atlas is the largest of the four, and will reach the height of an eight-storey building. Some 40 million collisions will take place in a second - every second - for 10 to 15 years. The particles will thus be speeded up to very high energies, almost to the speed of light, and cause them to collide (according to Einstein's formula E=MC2) [MAKE THAT A LITTLE 2 ON TOP], thus creating very heavy particles that today do not exist in nature. According to Terem and Rosen, these particles existed immediately after the Big Bang creating the Universe, but they faded away because of their weight. In nature, there are Four Forces - gravitation, electromagnetic forces, weak and powerful forces. The first two are well known in our daily life, but the last two are known mostly to physicists. "The heavy particles produced by an accelerator will lose their power in accordance with the four forces," say the Technion physicists, "and observing this process will teach us about the laws of nature." The Atlas will surround the collision area and measure them. This must be accomplished within 25 nanoseconds. The scientists will register the 100 "most interesting" collisions each second so they can continue to study them. "The data that will be supplied by the accelerator would fill a million computer hard disks per second. Thus we need a 'trigger'' that is part of the sensor we are building that will filter out the information" said Terem and Rosen. "We are constructing this section along with scientists from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot and Tel Aviv University." The sensor panels are being made at Weizmann and checked at TAU. The panels have tiny electric wires 50 microns thick and coated with gold, and each of the panels being built in Israel covers 60 dunams. The total length of all the electric wires could be wound around the Earth at its widest point. There are 1,500 electronic circuits in each panel, which controls and monitors the sensor's activity. For example, if the circuit identifies a wire that comes loose, it can be neutralized without someone having to get close to it. The whole project costs billions of dollars, divided among all the participants. "All is being done by consensus and full cooperation among the nations," the Technion physicists concluded. "Generations of students are being educated on the experiment and will be educated in the planning and building of sensors, as well as in the analyses of the results. Technion students visit the site in Switzerland frequently and stay there for long periods. "The largest lab, called CERN, has dormitories and restaurants for scientists coming from all over the world. Some 6,000 people enter the site every day, and the atmosphere is very international. The Technion researchers have an important role in the project, and for the last decade during which we have participated, many ties of friendship have been forged."