LHC's mini bang simulates birth of universe

Boffins fiddling about with the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland have created mini versions of the 'Big Bang', the event which is thought to have spawned the universe some 14 billion years ago.

To produce the Mini Bangs, lead ions were fired at one another at close to the speed of light. The resulting collisions generated phenomenal temperatures, estimated at around a million times hotter than the centre of the Sun.

A member of the British team working at the the Collider, Dr David Evans, said the boffins were "thrilled" at the effort. "The collisions generated mini Big Bangs and the highest temperatures and densities ever achieved in an experiment.

"This process took place in a safe, controlled environment generating incredibly hot and dense sub-atomic fireballs with temperatures of over 10 trillion degrees, a million times hotter than the centre of the Sun.

"At these temperatures even protons and neutrons, which make up the nuclei of atoms, melt resulting in a hot dense soup of quarks and gluons known as a quark-gluon plasma."

Study of the quark-gluon plasma may shed light on what scientists call 'Strong Force', one of the four fundamental forces of nature.

"The Strong Force not only binds the nuclei of atoms together but is responsible for 98 per cent of their mass," said Dr Evans. "I now look forward to studying a tiny piece of what the universe was made of just a millionth of a second after the Big Bang."

The experiment made use of the LHC's 16.7-mile circular beam tunnel to cause the collision in a 16-metre high, 10,000-ton measuring chamber known as Alice.

Alice is equipped to deliver 1.2 gigabytes of data per second, which the scientists will trawl through to study conditions similar to those present at the dawn of being.