In the news this morning, it was announced that scientists have succeeded in colliding beams of protons using the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
The LHC is a $10 billion, 17-mile-long particle accelerator along the Swiss/French border, designed to study what happens when particles collide at extremely high energy. Such experiments will help us gain a better understanding of physics.
Before getting into the significance of today’s news, some background is necessary. Hadrons are tiny particles comprised of “quarks” and subject to the strong nuclear force. Just as an atom consists of particles of opposite charges (protons and electrons) held together by the electromagnetic force, so hadrons consist of oppositely “charged” particles (“quarks”) held together by the strong nuclear force—except the “charge” isn’t electric charge, but instead a different type of “charge” called color.
Another difference is that there are three colors (red, green, blue) and three “anti-colors,” rather than just two charges (positive and negative). These “colors” have nothing to do with color in the ordinary sense—it’s just a name. The overall color of a Hadron is always “white” (or “colorless” if you prefer) because its constituent colored quarks always blend that way. This is similar to the way an atom is (normally) electrically neutral because it has the same number of positively charged protons as negatively charged electrons.
The most commonly known hadrons are protons and neutrons. Each is comprised of exactly three quarks of fractional charge. The proton consists of two “up” quarks (with a charge of +2/3 each) and one “down” quark (with a charge of -1/3). Hence, the overall charge of a proton is +1. A neutron is made of two down quarks and one up quark, so its overall charge is zero. Note that electrons are not comprised of quarks, and are therefore not hadrons, but are a different type of particle called a lepton. The LHC is able to use powerful electromagnetic fields to accelerate charged particles up to nearly the speed of light.
Right now, there is a branch of physics that deals with very high speeds/high energies/high gravitational fields. It is called “relativity” because measurements of space and time were found to be relative to the observer’s velocity, and not independent of velocity as had been previously thought. Also, there is a branch of physics that deals with the behavior of particles at very small scales. This is called “quantum physics” because energy levels under certain conditions are “quantized” (falling into discrete quantities such as 1 and 2 with no values in between such as 1.5). However, at the moment, there is no branch of physics that can deal with both situations simultaneously (except under certain nuanced exceptions). Namely, we cannot know what will happen when very small particles interact at very high energies. However, several models exist which have made predictions about what will happen. The LHC will allow scientists to test competing models.
One problem in particular is the question of what gives particles their mass. Photons (particles of light) have no intrinsic mass. But electrons do. So do quarks and neutrinos. What is not known is: why? Why is it that some particles have mass and others do not? What controls the amount of mass a particle has? One hypothesis is that an elusive particle called the “Higgs boson” is responsible for giving all other particles their mass. Since the Higgs boson controls all other particles, it is sometimes referred to as the “God particle.”
Some reports have given people the impression that the LHC will confirm the big bang…But this isn’t so.
Some reports have given people the impression that the LHC will confirm the big bang (the secular version of the origin of the universe). But this isn’t so. The reason there is such confusion is that the LHC will simulate the conditions that secular scientists believe existed during the big bang. However, regardless of the outcome, the LHC will give us no reason whatsoever to believe that such conditions have ever actually existed. Just because something can be done today doesn’t mean it has ever happened in nature in the past (i.e., we can put men in orbit around the earth today, but that never happened in nature before the 20th century.) Therefore, despite hyped media reporting, the LHC cannot (even in principle) demonstrate that the big bang happened. It may, however, give us some interesting insight into how God upholds His universe today.
Given the alleged secular claims about the LHC, it is somewhat ironic that the very existence of such a machine is a confirmation of biblical creation. God has promised in Genesis 8:22 to uphold the universe in a consistent way such that the basic cycles of nature are uniform. So, we have God’s Word that the laws of physics will be the same tomorrow as they were yesterday. Such consistency is what makes science possible; God upholds the universe in a consistent way. Without such a promise, experiments like the LHC (or any other scientific experiment) would be completely useless.
But in a big bang, evolutionary universe, there is no guarantee that nature will have such uniformity. The fact that it has in the past is irrelevant to the future, unless we already assumed uniformity between the future and the past. All scientists must presuppose that nature is orderly in order for scientific testing to be meaningful. For instance, measuring the speed of a ball rolling down an inclined plane would be pointless if the force of gravity were constantly changing in an unpredictable way.
Whatever scientists discover about the universe from the LHC, it will show that the universe is upheld by God in a consistent way. This will therefore confirm that the Bible is true.