Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 22 November 2014

Large Hadron Collider begins quest for the "God particle"

The Large Hadron Collider
Large Hadron Collider
European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) scientists control computer screens showing traces on Atlas experiment of the first protons injected in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) during its switch on operation at the Cern's press center on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2008 near Geneva, Switzerland. Scientists fired a first beam of protons around a 27-kilometer (17mile) tunnel housing the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). They hope to recreate conditions just after the so-called Big Bang. The international group of scientists plan to smash particles together to create, on a small-scale, re-enactments of the Big Bang. (AP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini, Pool)
The Cern computer system displays images generated of the first collisions to take place in the Large Hadron Collider
Hadron Collider
Ergonomists helped design a better working environment for control room staff charged with operating the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Experts from CCD Design and the Ergonomics Consultancy in London made visits to the centre, just outside of Geneva, to interview staff, look at working practices and plot just how the new centre would operate.
Hadron Collider's control room
**ADVANCE FOR SUNDAY, JUNE 29--FILE** In this March 22, 2007 file photo, the magnet core of the world's largest superconducting solenoid magnet (CMS, Compact Muon Solenoid) at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)'s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle accelerator, which is scheduled to switch on in November 2007, in Geneva, Switzerland. Some 2000 scientists from 155 institutes in 36 countries are working together to build the CMS particle detector. (AP Photo/Keystone, Martial Trezzini, file)
A European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) scientist controls a computer screen showing traces on Atlas experiment of the first protons injected in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) during its switch on operation at the Cern's press center on Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2008 near Geneva, Switzerland. Scientists fired a first beam of protons around a 27-kilometer (17 mile) tunnel housing the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). They hope to recreate conditions just after the so-called Big Bang. The international group of scientists plan to smash particles together to create, on a small-scale, re-enactments of the Big Bang. (AP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini, Pool)
View of the LHC (large hadron collider) in its tunnel at CERN near Geneva
Spectators look at the ATLAS detector construction (a Toroidal LHC Apparatus) at the CERN (Centre Europeen de Recherche Nucleaire) near Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday, May 31, 2007. The detector will be placed around the large hadron collider (LHC), CERN's highest energy particle accelerator. ATLAS is a general-purpose detector designed to measure the broadest possible range of particles and physical processes that could result from the collision of the proton beams within the LHC. A pilot run of the LHC is scheduled for summer 2007. (KEYSTONE/Martial Trezzini)
**FILE**This March 22, 2007 file photo, shows the magnet core of the world's largest superconducting solenoid magnet (CMS, Compact Muon Solenoid) at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)'s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle accelerator, which is scheduled to be switched on in November, in Geneva, Switzerland. Some 2,000 scientists from 155 institutes in 36 countries are working together to build the CMS particle detector. (AP Photo/Keystone, Martial Trezzini, file)
View of the LHC (large hadron collider) in its tunnel at CERN (European particle physics laboratory) near Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday, May 31, 2007. The LHC is a 27-kilometre-long underground ring of superconducting magnets housed in this pipe-like structure or cryostat. The cryostat is cooled by liquid helium to keep it at an operating temperature just above absolute zero. It will accelerate two counter-rotating beam of protons to an energy of 7 tera electron volts (TeV) and then bring them to collide head on. Several detectors are being built around the LHC to detect the various particles produced by the collision. A pilot run of the LHC is scheduled for summer 2007. (KEYSTONE/Martial Trezzini)
Spectators look at the ATLAS detector construction (a Toroidal LHC Apparatus) at the CERN (Centre Europeen de Recherche Nucleaire) near Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday, May 31, 2007. The detector will be placed around the large hadron collider (LHC), CERN's highest energy particle accelerator. ATLAS is a general-purpose detector designed to measure the broadest possible range of particles and physical processes that could result from the collision of the proton beams within the LHC. A pilot run of the LHC is scheduled for summer 2007. (KEYSTONE/Martial Trezzini)
Spectators look at the ATLAS detector construction (a Toroidal LHC Apparatus) at the CERN (Centre Europeen de Recherche Nucleaire) near Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday, May 31, 2007. The detector will be placed around the large hadron collider (LHC), CERN's highest energy particle accelerator. ATLAS is a general-purpose detector designed to measure the broadest possible range of particles and physical processes that could result from the collision of the proton beams within the LHC. A pilot run of the LHC is scheduled for summer 2007. (KEYSTONE/Martial Trezzini)
Employees inspect the ATLAS detector construction (a Toroidal LHC Apparatus) at the the CERN (Centre Europeen de Recherche Nucleaire) near Geneva, Switzerland, on Thursday, May 31, 2007. The detector will be placed around the large hadron collider (LHC), CERN's highest energy particle accelerator. ATLAS is a general-purpose detector designed to measure the broadest possible range of particles and physical processes that could result from the collision of the proton beams within the LHC. A pilot run of the LHC is scheduled for summer 2007. (KEYSTONE/Martial Trezzini)

The world's largest atom smasher, the Large Hadron Collider, was poised to start a new era of science, colliding beams of protons to learn more about the make-up of the universe and its smallest particles.

Two beams of protons began 11 days ago to speed at high energy in opposite directions around the Collider under the Swiss-French border in Geneva.

The beams have been pushed to 3.5 trillion electron volts, the highest energy achieved by any physics accelerator - some three times greater than the previous record.

The European Organisation for Nuclear Research, or CERN, plans to start trying to use the powerful superconducting magnets to force the two beams to cross, creating collisions and showers of particles.

They could be successful immediately, but such huge machines can be so tricky to run that it could take days.

The beams will be packed with hundreds of billions of protons, but the particles are so tiny that few will collide at each crossing.

Dubbed the world's largest scientific experiment, the £6.7 billion Large Hadron Collider holds the promise of revealing details about theoretical particles and microforces, scientists say.

Steve Myers, CERN's director for accelerators and technology, describes the challenge of lining up the beams as being akin to "firing needles across the Atlantic and getting them to collide half way".

The collisions will come over the objections of some people who fear they could eventually imperil Earth by creating micro black holes -- sub-atomic versions of collapsed stars whose gravity is so strong they can suck in planets and other stars.

CERN and many scientists dismiss any threat to Earth or people on it, saying that any such holes would be so weak that they would vanish almost instantly without causing any damage.

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