• The WTF Files

What is Really Happening inside CERNS Large Hadron Collider?

The European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, is gearing up for another run at smashing particles together to unlock the secrets of the universe or possibly to blast open a gateway for apocalyptic demons.

In our everyday lives, we experience three spatial dimensions, and a fourth dimension of time. How could there be more? Einstein’s general theory of relativity tells us that space can expand, contract, and bend.

Now if one dimension were to contract to a size smaller than an atom, it would be hidden from our view. But if we could look on a small enough scale, that hidden dimension might become visible again.

Imagine a person walking on a tightrope. She can only move backward and forward; but not left and right, nor up and down, so she only sees one dimension. Ants living on a much smaller scale could move around the cable, in what would appear like an extra dimension to the tightrope-walker.

How could we test for extra dimensions? One option would be to find evidence of particles that can exist only if extra dimensions are real. Theories that suggest extra dimensions predict that, in the same way as atoms have a low-energy ground state and excited high-energy states, there would be heavier versions of standard particles in other dimensions. These heavier versions of particles – called Kaluza-Klein states – would have exactly the same properties as standard particles (and so be visible to our detectors) but with a greater mass.

If CMS or ATLAS were to find a Z- or W-like particle (the Z and W bosons being carriers of the electroweak force) with a mass 100 times larger for instance, this might suggest the presence of extra dimensions.