Rockford grad in midst of breaking world news

April 8, 2010 // 0 Comments

Man’s most complex machine to answer questions of the universe by BETH ALTENA Several years ago, the world media was filled with worries that Earth’s first particle collider would create a black hole and suck in the planet with everyone and everything on it. Last week, the Large Hadron Collider’s (LHC) first successful proton collision took place and Rockford graduate Burt DeWilde was there to see it happen. In fact, he is helping make it happen.   “We hope to fill the gaps in our current understanding and answer some of the ‘big’ questions, including: What is the origin of mass? Why is the universe made of matter and not anti-matter? What were conditions like in the first moments after the Big Bang,” DeWilde said of the experiments. DeWilde said the machine is located 100 meters underground, in part because of concerns of radiation. “The Earth’s crust acts as an excellent radiation shield, protecting everyone from the results of those powerful collisions,” he said. “Just in case, my renters insurance covers technological catastrophe. No worries here.” In fact, the machine is safe. DeWilde said the worries caused by news coverage led scientists to study the situation and come to the conclusion that the LHC poses no danger to the Earth. “For billions of years nature has been bombarding the atmosphere with high-energy particles called cosmic rays that have resulted in about as many collisions as a million LHC experiments,” DeWilde stated. “The fact that we are still here today is a very good reason—among others—to believe we’ll survive LHC as well.” DeWilde is in Switzerland as a research assistant and PhD candidate. He works for CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research and is pursuing his thesis where the most breaking physics science is taking place. Specifically DeWilde works on a particle detector called ATLAS, which is the size of half the Notre Dame Cathedral and weighs as much as the Eiffel Tower. “My research so far is focused on developing new and improved silicon sensors used to detect and track charged particles passing through the innermost layers of the detector,” De Wilde explained. He said the machines are so complex scientists have to work on upgrades years in advance, before the machines are even […]