April 29, 2008
(I have no clue what anything below means)
It is currently in the final stages of construction, and commissioning, with some sections already being cooled down to their final operating temperature of ~2K. The first beams are due for injection mid June 2008 with the first collisions planned to take place 2 months later. The LHC will become the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator. The LHC is being funded and built in collaboration with over two thousand physicists from thirty-four countries as well as hundreds of universities and laboratories.
When activated, it is theorized that the collider will produce the elusive Higgs boson, the observation of which could confirm the predictions and "missing links" in the Standard Model of physics and could explain how other elementary particles acquire properties such as mass. The verification of the existence of the Higgs boson would be a significant step in the search for a Grand Unified Theory, which seeks to unify the three fundamental forces: electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force. The Higgs boson may also help to explain why gravitation is so weak compared to the other three forces. In addition to the Higgs boson, other theorized novel particles that might be produced, and for which searches are planned, include strangelets, micro black holes, magnetic monopoles and supersymmetric particles.
The collider tunnel contains two pipes enclosed within superconducting magnets cooled by liquid helium, each pipe containing a proton beam. The two beams travel in opposite directions around the ring. Additional magnets are used to direct the beams to four intersection points where interactions between them will take place. In total, over 1600 superconducting magnets are installed, with most weighing over 27 tonnes.
The protons will each have an energy of 7 TeV, giving a total collision energy of 14 TeV. It will take around 90 microseconds for an individual proton to travel once around the collider. Rather than continuous beams, the protons will be "bunched" together, into approximately 2,800 bunches, so that interactions between the two beams will take place at discrete intervals never shorter than 25 nanoseconds apart. When the collider is first commissioned, it will be operated with fewer bunches, to give a bunch crossing interval of 75 ns. The number of bunches will later be increased to give a final bunch crossing interval of 25 ns..."
VR photography above by Peter McCready!
If you visited CERN yourself, please share some of your impressions in the comments below.
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If you want an explanation in plain English, with some dazzling photos too, check out National Geographic's recent story on "The God Particle":
Posted by: Marilyn Terrell at Apr 29, 2008 9:19:51 PM
For an intriguing "who'll do it" SF murder mystery, check out Robert Sawyer's "Flash Forward". Not only do most of the novel's characters work on the LHC at CERN, but the LHC itself plays an integral part in the plot.
Flash Forward was the first of his award-winning novels I've read, and it's still my favourite.
PS. I am not a scientist, and I understood it just fine.
Posted by: penelope at Apr 30, 2008 1:51:43 PM
Not for nothin', but...
Brian Greene explains Superstring Theory historically, ontologically and scientifically
in a VERY entertaining lecture designed to be understood. Can't be bad.
Maybe your children could watch this. It just might be the intellectual vaccine against American Idol.
That is, unless you think American Idol is a good thing.
Posted by: skot at Apr 30, 2008 4:22:37 PM
Those pictures at Nat Geo are fantastic. What I WANT TO KNOW is how those scientist types KNEW WHAT I WAS building here in my shop??
Posted by: Mr. Natural at Apr 30, 2008 9:35:38 PM