Time after time, scientists come up with innovative ideas about how they can take humanity out of the dark side of knowledge. It’s like we’re caged in a place, and we drill holes to look beyond the walls of the cage. And we always feel so close to breaking free from not knowing what the Universe has ever known. How did it happen?
Muon particle accelerator and the origins of the Universe
The newest hope in finding more about the origins of the Universe, and thus life’s origins, is the Muon Ionization Cooling Experiment (MICE), in the United Kingdom. More than one hundred scientists worked in the last twenty years to build more powerful and more efficient particle colliders through muon ionization cooling. Another goal is to overcome the previous most significant facilities, like the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva.
The muon is the smallest observable scale in which the Universe can be scrutinized so that a completely different regime of fundamental physics can be explored. A muon is an unstable subatomic particle of the same class as an electron, but with a mass around 200 times greater. Muons make up much of the cosmic radiation reaching the earth’s surface.
More about muons
The muons, being the smallest part of broken protons, are too playful to be easily controlled. They only boast a half-life of two-millionths of a second. They are also very peaky: they don’t go further than 10 billion degrees Kelvin. That means they need to be cooled before they get down the accelerator track. Liquid hydrogen absorbers are the solution to that flaw. But, to handle and contain liquid hydrogen, very thin aluminum windows are needed.
The muon beams are like supercooled magnets, and making them travel in a single direction is a difficult task. For a clear image, one should imagine the 100 scientists trying to squeeze a balloon in one spot, only to have it expand somewhere else. It’s not irony, is the comparison made by Dr. Chris Rogers, ISIS Neutron and Muon Beam facility.