As a part of the 2016 Sydney Science Festival the The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) is “transporting” the world’s greatest science experiment, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), to the Powerhouse Museum in an Australian first exhibition.
Running from 11 August to 30 October, the exhibition from the Science Museum, London, Collider provides a behind-the-scenes look at the CERN particle physics laboratory in Geneva that houses the LHC.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, the LHC is most famous for proving the existence of the Higgs boson, otherwise referred to as the “God Particle”. The Higgs boson was theorised in the 1950s to be a subatomic particle responsible for giving other elementary particles mass.
It is being used by thousands of scientists and engineers around the world to learn more about the tiny building blocks that make up our Universe and the laws that govern their behaviour.
The precise circumference of the LHC accelerator is 26,659m (almost the same length as London Underground’s Circle Line), containing thousands of the world’s most powerful magnets. Not only is the LHC the world’s largest particle accelerator, just one-eighth of its cryogenic distribution system would qualify as the world’s largest fridge.
When in operation, trillions of protons race around the LHC accelerator ring 11,245 times a second, travelling at 99.9999991 per cent the speed of light. Altogether some 600 million collisions take place every second.
When two beams of lead ions collide, they generate temperatures more than 100,000 times hotter than the heart of the Sun. By contrast, the cryogenic distribution system, which circulates superfluid helium around the accelerator ring, keeps the LHC at a super cool temperature of -271.3 degrees Celsius — even colder than outer space!
“This one-of-a-kind exhibition offers visitors an insider’s look at what it’s like to visit the famous site, to take a walk through the CERN control room, talk to virtual scientists and engineers, and snoop around a researcher’s workbench,” said said MAAS Director, Dolla Merrillees.
Blending theatre, video and sound with real artefacts from CERN, the exhibition puts you at the heart of an experiment that recreates the conditions that existed just after the Big Bang occurred 13.8 million years ago.
You can actually follow the journey of particle beams as they are injected into the accelerator chain, ramped up to speed and steered around the 27km LHC tunnel. Moving along the tunnel, a wrap-around projection engulfs audiences to simulate one of the LHC’s enormous experimental caverns, as particles smash together around them.
Australian researchers and students are involved in the LHC project through the ARC Centre of Excellence for Particle Physics at the Terascale (CoEPP), a collaborative research venture between the Universities of Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and Monash. The exhibition explores Australia’s contribution to experiments that have been and are currently being performed at CERN. Two staff members at the Powerhouse Museum have also worked on the project first hand.
Collider is a highlight of the Sydney Science Festival, which is now in it’s second year. Produced by the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, in collaboration with museums, galleries, universities, businesses, scientists, engineers and community organisations across greater Sydney, the festival is an 11-day program for National Science Week.
It will cost adults $20, concessions $13, children $5 and a family pass is $45 with tickets on sale from 24 June.