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9/10/2008
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Physicists Start Testing Big Bang Theory

Geneva's Large Hadron Collider became operational Wednesday; the device could shed light on the universe's origins.

Scientists in Geneva on Wednesday launched preliminary experiments to test the Big Bang theory of the universe's origins and other beliefs about how matter and mass formed.

For the tests, engineers built a giant contraption called the Large Hadron Collider. The unit is designed to smash sub-atomic particles into each other at extremely high speeds. They hope to use the LHC to crash protons into each other and create events that are similar to those that supposedly occurred when the universe formed.

The process aims to test the Big Bang theory and the belief that the Higgs boson particle—the so-called God particle--is the origin of matter and mass. It could also provide evidence of dark matter, or invisible matter in between galaxies.

Scientists with the European Organization for Nuclear Research tested the LHC Wednesday and successfully fired a beam of protons clockwise through a 17-mile, circular underground tunnel. Then they sent a beam of protons counterclockwise.

The group said they could send the beams in opposite directions simultaneously within months. Once physicists stabilize the proton beams and calibrate detectors, they hope to fire protons through tunnels near the speed of light and force them to collide.

A machine called an ATLAS detector could capture snapshots of the conditions, which physicists believe will be similar to those that existed immediately after the Big Bang.

The experiment could help scientists confirm existing theories about the origins of matter, mass, and the universe. If not, it could reveal unexpected information leading to new theories about creation.

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