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This week: Back to the future

Text by Eve IRVINE

Latest update : 2009-08-10

Environment visits CERN, where physicists are trying to re-create the moments after the big bang in a bid to examine particles that existed then but have since disappeared- going back in time in order to understand what our universe is made up of.

At the moment of the big bang and for a fraction of a second after it there were the tiniest of particles present that have since disappeared. Smashing sub-atomic particles together will re-create what was then and bring scientists closer to our origins.
“The goal”, explains physicist Andreas Schopper,  “is to understand the origins of matter- One of the fundamental questions being asked now is whether or not the Higgs particle exists. Finding that particle will allow us to understand why particles have a mass and what the mass of each one is.”

The Higgs particle plays a leading role in current theory of how the world is made and finding it will validate these predictions, bringing us to a greater understanding of how the universe works.

It is perhaps the most well know bit of the experiment but scientists are looking for lots of other particles-indeed 96% of the world's particles remain unknown.

But of the 4% elements that are known one group of microscopic particles causing concern are the so called “fine particles,” found in the air. Experts say that in Europe  these are responsible for 300,000 premature deaths every year and France’s Junior Minister for the ecology warns that this form of pollution is more present inside our homes than outside them.

And while in France all sides are working to find a plan to tackle the problem and hopes to have one ready for September, coming to a consensus on a carbon tax could prove harder. Switzerland has had a carbon tax for some time now and the price is set to triple come January. ENVIRONMENT looks at how it’s working there where there is little objection from the payers of the tax.

Date created : 2009-08-10