News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Restarting The Large Hadron Collider: The Quest For Micro Black Holes

A view of the ATLAS detector during the installation of a calorimeter, a device that measures the energies of particles produced when protons collide in the centre of the detector.

A device as complicated as the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland is bound to have a few technical hiccups. A short circuit stalled its reboot – and scientists aren’t exactly sure when it’ll be fixed. 

Professor Joseph Izen is part of the team from the University of Texas at Dallas that works on the collider. He joined KERA’s Justin Martin to talk about what they hope to achieve when the device restarts.

Interview Highlights: Joseph Izen ...

... on the purpose of the Large Hadron Collider: "It's a large machine for accelerating protons and smashing them into each other, and we look the debris of those collisions and we're looking for new stuff ... What we hope will come out are new particles that we haven't seen before. Perhaps some of the dark matter particles that we know exist but we've never observed before ... perhaps something we haven't thought about yet or perhaps micro black holes. Part of why we're at the energy frontier is that we know such things are possible -- are these things there to be discovered? We don't know until we look."

... on the possible reason for the short circuit: "Just the other day the machine group and the people who tend to the accelerator, the specialists, they have isolated the problem to a little speck of metallic dust -- probably left over from welding or cutting -- somehow wasn't cleaned out and that seems to be creating an intermittent short and we know exactly where it is and now there are several strategies being considered; some which would take just a few hours, some would involve warming up that location because right now it's cryogenic temperatures."

... on the creation of black holes: "The experimentalists have been looking for micro black holes for a while now and it's a particular kind of signature, a particular kind of outcome of proton collisions that will happen if we make micro black holes. The sad news is we haven't yet. If we are lucky enough to make micro black holes, the problem is that they evaporate right away, so there's no danger of black holes sucking in the earth or anything else like that."

Joseph Izen is a professor of physics at UT-Dallas.

Justin Martin is KERA’s local host of All Things Considered, anchoring afternoon newscasts for KERA 90.1. Justin grew up in Mannheim, Germany, and avidly listened to the Voice of America and National Public Radio whenever stateside. He graduated from the American Broadcasting School, and further polished his skills with radio veteran Kris Anderson of the Mighty 690 fame, a 50,000 watt border-blaster operating out of Tijuana, Mexico. Justin has worked as holiday anchor for the USA Radio Network, serving the U.S. Armed Forces Network. He’s also hosted, produced, and engineered several shows, including the Southern Gospel Jubilee on 660 KSKY.