Are we on the verge of creating a better global network than the World Wide Web? Is plasma going to be the next big thing in scientific research? Could we treat cancer without damaging the body? Is antimatter possible to create and be used? If you have ever asked yourselves some of these questions then you will be thrilled to read what we have gathered for you.
Here at LaptopMedia we usually focus on the latest models of laptops, smartphones, and desktop hardware. We review them and give you our professional opinion whether it’s worth your money or not. We also follow the latest trends and news in the tech world and share the best from it but sometimes we shift our focus on more sciency stuff like when we talked about graphene or blue light emissions. Today we want to share our thoughts about the largest research institute in the world – CERN. We had our chance to get to know CERN at first hand so this won’t be just the next article describing their work.
As you probably know, CERN hosts the largest elementary particle accelerator in the world – the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) which accelerates and collides protons to witness their interactions and maybe find the missing link in particle physics. If you have heard of this, you probably also know that CERN became quite popular in 2013 when the Higgs boson was tentatively confirmed. However, this is old news and you can read all over the Internet about it. We want to talk about the less known experiments that are being conducted at CERN and the inventions and technology that come from them that change our lives.
Apart from the LHC, there are many other facilities and experiments that take place at CERN – more than 140 to be precise 26 of which are currently active. A few of them are particularly interesting and we think that we can expect something big from them.
1. Radioactivity and the benefits from it
We think that it is appropriate to start off with the least ambitious one which does not mean that it is not important or not interesting but it’s rather simpler than the others. We are talking about the Isotope mass Separator On-Line facility also known as ISOLDE which sole purpose is to create and study different radioactive isotopes. Knowing the properties and physics of a given isotope is very important because it gives us a better idea of the surrounding world and the capabilities we have when creating such isotopes. Many scientific methods use radioactive isotopes for determining different quantities.
2. Antimatter – the unknown part of the universe
Moving on to the more interesting stuff we have the Antiproton Decelerator (AD) and the Extra Low ENergy Antiproton (ELENA) facilities. As the name suggests, the Antiproton Decelerator decelerates antiprotons, the question is how do it create them and just why do we need them? Answer the first question is rather simple – a beam of protons collides with a block of metal. This collision creates multiple other particles including antiprotons (if you don’t already know – an antiproton is an opposite particle of the proton, it has the same mass and energy but opposite (negative) electrical charge). These particles have very high energy which is where AD comes in handy – it decelerates them so we can “tame” them. After this is done they can be used to produce antiatoms.
As you probably know, the hydrogen atom is the simplest – only one electron orbiting around a single proton. In the case of the antiproton which has a negative electrical charge, a single positron (the opposite of electron) is orbiting around it thus creating an antihydrogen atom. So basically, using the AD we can create antimatter. However, only antihydrogen is possible to be created at the moment because synthesizing more complex elements like helium (antihelium in this case) is done by stars. Ok, we can produce antihydrogen – should we really care – you may ask. The answer is yes. Although, this may not affect your daily life studying the properties of antimatter could be the next big leap in human knowledge.
Some studies claim that for some reason matter and antimatter have not completely annihilated and some amount of antimatter is constantly in our surrounding environment. If that is true the only way to fully understand our world is to study both matter and antimatter.
ELENA is basically the same thing but better. It further decelerates the antiprotons delivered by AD making them easier to “catch” and study. Of course, don’t think about these facilities as antimatter factories – the biggest success was in 2011 when the experiment was said to have produced and trapped antihydrogen for 16 minutes which was just enough time to conduct a few tests.
3. Healthier cancer diagnosis and treatment
You may want to know that some technologies that come from CERN are used not only in science. For instance, projects developed in CERN are used in medicine and are quite helpful. As a matter of fact, antiparticles are actually used to observe tumors. PET which is short for Positron emission tomography uses a positron-emitting tracer that is injected into the body.
In the case of clinical oncology, the radioactive isotope fluorine-18 is used. The positrons emitted from it annihilate with the electrons and release a gamma quantum (photon). Without getting too sciency this emission of gamma rays helps to visualize tumors. PET scanning is non-invasive in its nature but you still get exposed to radiation which isn’t the most healthy thing you can do. However, it’s still better than MRI or X-ray.
While PET is used for observing cancer, Hadron therapy can be used for its treatment. What makes hadron therapy better than the conventional radiation therapy is that there is higher precision which means that less healthy cells are affected by the radiation thus making it less damaging to the body.
4. Experimenting with plasma
Another project in CERN that really grabbed our attention was the Proton Driven Plasma Wakefield Acceleration Experiment (AWAKE) which is still in the works. The idea of AWAKE is to create the next generation of elementary particle accelerators which will be able to achieve higher energies over a shorter distance which is essential for the future of these studies because the Large Hadron Collider is 27 kilometers long and making a bigger one won’t be an easy task.
AWAKE is trying to study and use plasma wakefields which are a type of wave generated when particles travel trough plasma. Proton beams will be sent trough the plasma cell to generate these wakefields which will then be used for accelerating electrons. All of this may sound like gibberish to you – and we don’t blame you it’s hard to comprehend – but it is nice to see that scientists are trying new methods to enhance their studies maybe just maybe find something useful.
5. How CERN manages all the data it collects?
We would also like to make a speculation of our own. CERN has to analyze huge amounts of data harnessed from the experiments every day. Their computing power is just not enough to work with so much data and that’s why they came up with the brilliant idea of creating a grid of computers and that’s how the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid (WLCG ) was born. It is a network that basically distributes the data to computers all over the world so the information can be handled.
What we assume is that like the World Wide Web (again developed by CERN) which was initially developed for scientific uses inside the institute, this grid system could someday become available for the masses thus allowing you to use the computing power of the whole world. Well ok, maybe we went too far with this assumption but who knows what lays ahead?
We believe that CERN and other organizations like it are where we will forge our future and we are thrilled to read about the latest discoveries.