Lecture 5 – An hour to make the universe

From the 1993 lecture programme:

The discoveries from LEP, and throughout the century, make it increasingly surprising that we are here at all! According to our best theories, the Universe erupted in a big hang of hot radiation from which matter and antimatter were born in equal amounts. Yet out of this uniform symmetric newborn Universe, somehow 20 billion years later all the antimatter has disappeared leaving matter, such as us, and the microwave background radiation remnant of the original heat. How did a uniform Universe end up skewed?

There are several examples in nature of phenomena that appear to be symmetric under one set of conditions and that hide the symmetry under other circumstances. A bath of water consists of molecules uniformly distributed in all 3-dimensions and all directions; but when frozen this uniformity is replaced by the hexagonal symmetry of the snowflake. It is beautiful but more ordered than its hot counterpart, analogous perhaps to the highly structured cool Universe of 20 billion years in contrast to the uniform and hot initial state.

Physicists are now on the trail of the mechanism that hid this original symmetry. They are planning to use the facilities at the LEP in CERN to build a more powerful machine known as LHC (Large Hadron Collider). The cosmologists tell us that 90% of the Universe consists of mysterious “Dark Matter”: this could be formed at LHC as this accelerator will produce conditions 100 times nearer to the Big Bang than ever seen before, taking us into an epoch before the veil dropped that hid the original symmetries of the Natural Laws, and begin to resolve the deep conundrum of our existence.






Frank Close



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