Courtesy of BBC News: Love reading this stuff. Scientists have hailed a successful switch-on for an enormous experiment which will recreate the conditions a few moments after the Big Bang. They have now fired two beams of particles called protons around the 27km-long tunnel which houses the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The £5bn machine on the Swiss-French border is designed to smash particles together with cataclysmic force. Scientists hope it will shed light on fundamental questions in physics. The first beam completed its first circuit of the underground tunnel at just before 0930 BST. The second successfully circled the ring after 1400 BST. Cern has not yet announced when it plans to carry out the first collisions, but these are expected to happen before the machine shuts down for winter. . We will be looking at what the Universe was made of billionths of a second after the Big Bang Dr Tara Shears, University of Liverpool What is the Large Hadron Collider? “There it is,” project leader Lyn Evans said when the beam completed its lap. There were cheers in the control room when engineers heard of the successful test. He added later: “We had a very good start-up.” The LHC is arguably the most complicated and ambitious experiment ever built; the project has been hit by cost overruns, equipment trouble and construction problems. The switch-on itself is two years late. The collider is operated by the European Organization for Nuclear Research - better known by its French acronym Cern. The vast circular tunnel - the “ring” - which runs under the French-Swiss border contains more than 1,000 cylindrical magnets arranged end-to-end. The magnets are there to steer the beam - made up of particles called protons - around this 27km-long ring. Big Bang Day Eventually, two proton beams will be steered in opposite directions around the LHC at close to the speed of light, completing about 11,000 laps each second. At allotted points around the tunnel, the beams will cross paths, smashing together near four massive “detectors” that monitor the collisions for interesting events. Scientists are hoping that new sub-atomic particles will emerge, revealing fundamental insights into the nature of the cosmos. Major effort “We will be able to see deeper into matter than ever before,” said Dr Tara Shears, a particle physicist at the University of Liverpool. “We will be looking at what the Universe was made of billionths of a second after the Big Bang. That is amazing, that really is fantastic.” The LHC should answer one very simple question: What is mass? LHC DETECTORS ATLAS - one of two so-called general purpose detectors. Atlas will be used to look for signs of new physics, including the origins of mass and extra dimensions CMS - the second general purpose detector will, like ATLAS, hunt for the Higgs boson and look for clues to the nature of dark matter ALICE - will study a “liquid” form of matter called quark-gluon plasma that existed shortly after the Big Bang LHCb - Equal amounts of matter and anti-matter were created in the Big Bang. LHCb will try to investigate what happened to the “missing” anti-matter “We know the answer will be found at the LHC,” said Jim Virdee, a particle physicist at Imperial College London. The currently favoured model involves a particle called the Higgs boson - dubbed the “God Particle”. According to the theory, particles acquire their mass through interactions with an all-pervading field carried by the Higgs. The latest astronomical observations suggest ordinary matter - such as the galaxies, gas, stars and planets - makes up just 4% of the Universe. The rest is dark matter (23%) and dark energy (73%). Physicists think the LHC could provide clues about the nature of this mysterious “stuff”. But Professor Virdee told BBC News: “Nature can surprise us… we have to be ready to detect anything it throws at us.” Full beam ahead Engineers injected the first low-intensity proton beams into the LHC in August. But they did not go all the way around the ring. Technicians had to be on the lookout for potential problems. Steve Myers, head of the accelerator and beam department, said: “There are on the order of 2,000 magnetic circuits in the machine. This means there are 2,000 power supplies which generate the current which flows in the coils of the magnets.” If there was a fault with any of these, he said, it would have stopped the beams. They were also wary of obstacles in the beam pipe which could prevent the protons from completing their first circuit. Superconducting magnets are cooled down using liquid helium Mr Myers has experience of the latter problem. While working on the LHC’s predecessor, a machine called the Large-Electron Positron Collider, engineers found two beer bottles wedged into the beam pipe - a deliberate, one-off act of sabotage. The culprits - who were drinking a particular brand that advertising once claimed would “refresh the parts other beers cannot reach” - were never found. After the beams make one turn, engineers attempt to “close the orbit”, allowing the beams to circulate continuously around the LHC. HAVE YOUR SAY I think it is disgraceful that huge sums of cash have been spent on this project Robert, Spain Send us your commentsEngineers then try to “capture” them. The beams which circle the LHC is not continuous; they are composed of several packets - each about a metre long - containing billions of protons. The protons would disperse if left to their own devices, so engineers use electrical forces to “grab” them, keeping the particles tightly huddled in packets. Once the beams are captured, the same system of electrical forces is used to give the particles an energetic kick, accelerating them to greater and greater speeds. Long haul The idea of the Large Hadron Collider emerged in the early 1980s. The project was eventually approved in 1996 at a cost of 2.6bn Swiss Francs, which amounts to about £1.3bn at present exchange rates. However, Cern underestimated equipment and engineering costs when it set out its original budget, plunging the lab into a cash crisis. FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME More from Today programme Cern had to borrow hundreds of millions of euros in bank loans to get the LHC completed. The current price is nearly four times that originally envisaged. During winter, the LHC will be shut down, allowing equipment to be fine-tuned for collisions at full energy. “What’s so exciting is that we haven’t had a large new facility starting up for years,” explained Dr Shears. “Our experiments are so huge, so complex and so expensive that they don’t come along very often. When they do, we get all the physics out of them that we can.” Engineers celebrated the success with champagne, but a certain brand of beer was not on the menu.
They just built a huge accelerator. Similar experiments but with one beam hitting a target are performed on a regular basis.
Hi, That was the first thing I read this morning when I turned up to work. I can’t beleive how far scientists can go. It could have swalloed the universe. In financial terms high risk,low returns but nontheless it was successful. Hope fully they will find more about the ‘God particle’. Also one thing, Was there a general consesus to do such an experiment? I know Stephen Hawking had backed up by saying that such collissions happens normally but the humans are prone to errors and the impact would have been something which would have created " A Big black hole" again. Cheers Sumo
I’ve been reading about this for a year are two now and I am very excited to see what they find.
Anticipating an infinitely-accelerating black hole created by this project, which would swallow the entire planet in a billionth of a second, I bought anti-gravity boots. So far disappointed with them, but I’ll keep everyone updated.
Google has it on their main page too
Buckaroo: anti-gravity boots??? Where did you get that from. Time to put that in ebay. Very funny lol…
This actually is important… the machine could tell us what mass is and where it comes from… and if we know that we might better understand the theory of relativty (which itself is explained with analogies… we still do not understand what causes gravity and why)
I would think a microscopic black hole would simply fall to the center of the earth, swallowing whatever it encounters on its way. I guess the real worry is that it might end up bouncing around inside for a while, growing bigger. Our gravity wouldn’t be a problem, because the mass inside the earth would all be the same (though the direction of the pull might change as it oscillates back and forth. If it settles in the middle of the iron core, the key question would be whether the black hole would pull so hard that it just breaks off of a chunk of the core, or whether it pulls the rest of the core in with it. As I recall, the core is very hot, but it is solid because of pressure. If it does swallow the core, then there’s the liquid mantle. It would presumably eat the mantle because as it swallows the part nearest it, more liquid mantle falls toward the black hole and comes in contact with it. So the mantle would disappear, leaving a hollow crust. If the crust were truly solid, we’d just be an empty ball and maybe keep spinning around with just a black hole in the middle. However, plate tectonics suggests that the crust isn’t solid, but has fractures that mean parts of the plate would fall in toward the center. Might be a neat hollywood kind of view, but not so pleasant to experience. I think black holes are supposedly “sloppy eaters” too… so even if the crust were solid enough to stay intact, there’d be lots of x-ray and gamma ray radiation coming from inside earth, with maybe not so much shielding to protect us (at least against the gamma ray stuff). So yeah, when I started writing this, I thought a microscopic black hole wouldn’t be very serious, but now I just hope the black hole stuff is overblown.
People get scared over the most improbable and unlikely of events. Cosmic rays smashing into the Earth’s magnetic shield and atmosphere cause similar collisions and guess what…after a couple Billion years of that happening continually we are still here. I think the people who think this will cause the end of the World are the same people who think Palin is any more qualified than a Devry Graduate.
If I was going to make something this awesome, I would definitely give it a better name than “Large Hadron Collider”.
hey wasnt this in some Dan Brown book?
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