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What happened at the birth of the universe 14 billion years ago? It is a puzzle that has challenged scientists, scholars and the religious since long before history was written down.
 
Now scientists at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (Cern) in Switzerland are hoping to be able to shed some light on this age old mystery.

They have successfully started the most expensive scientific experiment of all time.

The experiments rely on a machine called the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Described as the biggest machine in the world, it is 27km long and is located 100m underground.
 
It is designed to circulate two beams of sub-atomic particles in opposite directions through a vacuum as cold and empty as outer space.
 
The collision of sub-atomic particles creates an enormous amount of heat and energy in a small area. It simulates conditions present billions of years ago, right after the Big Bang that is believed to have sparked the beginning of our universe.
 
Some scientists warn that the experiment could create microscopic black holes that could swallow the earth. But Cern has dismissed those fears as ridiculous.

What are the tangible benefits of such an experiment? What exactly is this experiment about? And is it worth it? 

Inside Story presenter Imran Garda is joined by Jonathan Butterworth, a professor of physics at University College London who also works on the Atlas experiment on the Large Hadron Collider at Cern, Otto Rossler, a professor of theoretical biochemistry at the University of Tubingen, and Valerie Jamieson, a features editor at New Scientist magazine who has been covering the Large Hadron Collider for many years.

This episode of Inside Story aired from Wednesday, March 31, 2010.

Source: Al Jazeera