Whoever said that with the discovery of the Higgs boson, the field of cosmology suddenly became dull and everything of significance is known known.
Enter Lithium, a particle physicist’s worst nemesis. The reason why this simple element is such a big problem is that we know how stellar hydrogen fuses to become Lithium
in Big bang like conditions. We’ve verified this experimentally. However the amount of Lithium found in stars and the observable universe is much much lesser.
Scientists at Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) studied how much lithium forms under Big Bang conditions for the first time and determined that the theoretical calculations were indeed correct. The phenomena under which Lithium is created has a rather fancy name called “primordial nucleosynthesis”. The things scientists do for getting grant money 😛
The experiment was performed in an underground lab called the Laboratory for Underground Nuclear Astrophysics (LUNA), shielded by cosmic particles using a lead barrier.
These are the extreme setup conditions needed to get correct results.
The question is, if the theory works what’s happening out there. Why do stars contain much lesser quantity that what we should have seen.
For the advanced reader See
M. Anders et al. (2014), First Direct Measurement of the 2H(a,?)6Li Cross Section at Big Bang Energies and the Primordial Lithium Problem. Physical Review Letters 113, 042501. DOI 10.1103/PhysRevLett.113.042501