Big Bang experiment has Purdue connection

Man looks at the giant magnet Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) being placed underground in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) accelerator at CERN. (AP file photo)
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Emily Longnecker/Eyewitness News

West Lafayette - Physicists in Switzerland have officially started an experiment that scientists say could change the way we see the universe.

It's not rocket science. It's bigger than that, and it's got a Hoosier connection through Purdue University.

It all starts with the world's largest particle collider. Physicists designed it to recreate the Big Bang - how scientists believe the universe was born - just on a smaller scale.

Purdue physicist Ian Shipsey calls it "the largest most complicated machine ever built by mankind."

Scientists have built a 17-mile tunnel 300 feet below Switzerland where protons will collide at the speed of light. To capture all the action, there will be giant cameras the size of cathedrals and with the precision of a Swiss Watch, explain Purdue scientists.

"We have built one of those Swiss watches at Purdue, " said Dr. Shipsey.

Shipsey called it the largest digital camera of its type ever built by a university. One professor went to court to stop the experiment, warning it could be the end of the world as the colliding particles create black holes. (Why this is highly unlikely.)

But Purdue physicist Virgil Barnes is not worried about that happening.

"We expect them to live a very short time so they're not capable of eating up the earth," said Dr. Barnes.

According to the group working on the experiment from Purdue, data that comes from the experiment will go to super computers at Purdue and across the world. From there, physicists will take a look at it, hoping to answer the age old question: How did we get here?

"In a sense, we're trying to learn how God did it. We're learning about the mind of God and that's one of the greatest things a human being can do, " said Dr. Shipsey.

Scientist say it could take years to answer their questions about how the universe began, but hope this experiment will get them closer every day.

Learn more about the project via the "Large Hadron Collider Rap" 

Visit CERN's website