The Future of Physics

Just returned from the heaven ... for last 2 weeks I am spending almost 5-6 hours per day (apart from my office work) studying modern physics :). Physics is my hobby starting from 11th standard. Didn't get much time to read more in last few years, but recent news about The Large Hadron Collider brought me back to the topics which once fascinated me a lot. In last two weeks, I went through lots of material, books, articles, maths etc. whatever I found related to the topic.

Let me just write down what I understood from it. Don't know how many of you are following these news. At least some of you might have heard something happening in Europe which can change future of physics, unveil hidden secrets of Universe, provide unlimited source of energy or possibly destroy earth entirely. This is all about Large Hadron Collider or LHC experiment being carried out at the Swiss and French borders on the outskirts of Geneva. I am not a physics Guru hence do not expect any core technical stuff and my interpretation can be wrong.

What exactly is LHC? It is a long magnetic tunnel (27 km long) built underground to accelerate small subatomic particles (e.g. protons, electrons etc.) to the speed of light and make them collide with each other. It uses magnetic filed to increase their velocity and control their direction. The collision is captured by several 150 MegaPixel cameras which are capable of taking snapshots 600 million times per second - kya solid detailed film hogi yeh :-). These reports will be analyzed by scientists to study the creation, life span, decay of several other subatomic particles produced during the collision.

Now lets talk about why are they doing this and how it is related to future of physics. The history of physics is very old right from ancient indian vedas, greeks, roman structures etc. But it got mathematical foundation in 16th century when Galileo and Newton provided laws of physics. Those laws were perfect to explain day to day situations. But when scientists applied those laws to study events happening at very large scale such as measurements of orbits and galaxies, they found problems. Also, when we try to peep into the atom and try apply these rules at atomic scale, there are lots of inconsistencies. Hence from the beginning of the 20th century physicist developed theories such as relativity, quantum mechanics, string theory etc. Those theories were great at standalone level but when people try to combine them, it resulted into problems. Hence scientists were looking for a unified theory which will answer all their doubts.

Scientists have proposed lot of theories but they are not able to prove them without lack of actual observations. This experiment is going to create a state which was present at the beginning of the universe, probably first few seconds of the universe. Colliding two high speed protons will result in creation of different particles which we have not seen yet. It will also produce black holes for a very small period. No one knows exactly what :-) hence everyone is watching it.

Some .. esp. media is creating hype that this experiment can destroy earth entirely because the black hole created will suck the entire earth in it. Well, as a layman with basic understanding of physics can also tell that this is not going to happen .. even if it is .. the probability is very very low so that it can be neglected.

Some people are raising concerns over the budget spend for the experiment. $8 billion. With no guaranteed success. This money could have been used for humanitarian aid projects, against terrorism etc. But I personally feel development of science is also very important for the development of mankind. Involvement of basic science is going to drive technology which will ultimately make human life better.

This experiment also suggested that there is going to be decentralization of scientific development efforts from US to another parts in the world. This project involves lots of countries including India.

Finally, one more thing comes into mind is, what if this experiment discovers something evil ? say a powerful bomb which is better than H-bomb or FFF bomb which can be built easily such that even terrorists can built it ? No one knows. The development of science is twofold .. its up to us how we use it.

Ending the post with a poem I wrote in my SSC exam essay :

विज्ञानातील असुराला नराधमाची साथ आहे
मानवाच्या विनाशात मानवाचाच हात आहे;
किती गेले किती शिल्लक कशाला ही वाजाबाकी
एक दिवस विश्वाचेही हिरोशिमा नागासाकी.

Comments welcome.


Anshuk Jain said...

Hi Mandar. Nice post. I have started following up your blog.. I find it interesting. Keep it up.

mandar.deodhar said...

Thanks a lot Anshuk.