News blog

Collisions at LHC!

CMS 7TeV.jpgToday, after over fifteen years of planning, construction, delays and drama, the Large Hadron Collider began doing what it was built to do: colliding particles.

Just before 13:00 Geneva time, physicists guided two beams of protons moving at 3.5 TeV into collision points around the machine’s 27 km ring. Moments later, cheers erupted from the control rooms of the machine’s four main experiments, as shrapnel from the collisions flooded into the detectors.

The collisions end a long data drought for particle physicists, who haven’t had a new accelerator since the completion of the Tevatron’s main injector in 1999 at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois. In the US, particle physicists had hoped to replace the Tevatron with a new Superconducting Supercollider, but that projected was cancelled by Congress in 1993, in the face of enormous cost overruns.

atlas2010-vp1-152166-316199.jpgThe LHC is less powerful than the SSC would have been, but it’s still far more powerful than the Tevatron. Initially the machine will collide particles at 7 TeV, over three times the energy of the Tevatron. After a year of running at that energy, the LHC will shut down for about a year to perform a series of upgrades. It will then (hopefully) reopen at 14 TeV, its original design energy.

I can’t think of another case where the future of an entire field hinges on the success of a single experiment. If the LHC works, it could verify current theories of particle physics, most notably the Higgs mechanism, which endows all matter with mass. It could also discover new physics beyond the current “standard model”, and explain some current mysteries in physics like “dark matter”, a mysterious form of matter that makes up around 85% of all matter in the universe. If it doesn’t see anything new, thousands of high-energy physicists will have to find a new line of work.

That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but only just, and the relief was clearly visible on the faces of happy physicists at CERN today. Now that the LHC is finally working, physicists will once again press forward in their search for new particles and new physics beyond anything that’s seen today.

ATLAS Collaboration/CMS Collaboration


  1. Report this comment

    Bob V said:

    Sound like a big waste of money to me.

    Let me know when it does something for the good of mankind,otherwise it’s an expensive toy!

  2. Report this comment

    Prince Kadyan said:

    That’s a great news. To me it doesn’t look like waste of money. All of today’s developments are credited to such experiments only, which push the limits of human knowledge. The cost incurred on such experiments is negligible when we compare it with their long term repercussions.

    Prince Kadyan

  3. Report this comment

    Delysia Moore said:

    The day the U.S. cancelled our own supercollider project in will someday be seen as the day we gave up leading the world in scientific creativity and innovation. I’m pleased that the project in Europe went forward, but sad that this didn’t happen in my own country – because it could have.

  4. Report this comment

    Babatunde Oyetayo said:

    Great Stuff! Each near impossible feat achieved is a giant step for mankind. many may not appreciate its impact now, but as years roll by and we begin to realise what other scientific resolutions and achievement we are able to make thenceforth, only then majority would see it is beneficial to glory of God and Mankind. Keep up the good job you Great Physicists! Good hunting!!!!


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    The Anti-Elitist said:

    Meanwhile, hundreds of kids will die of starvation and neglect today, while in another part of the world a family loses their home because there are no jobs, and in another part of the world drought conditions worsen causing more families to have to ration even more water use, and in a few minutes another species will become extinct… but hey why spend trillions on those kinds of things when you can buy a LHC for a bunch of eggheads instead? yeah humanity has its priorities straight.

  6. Report this comment

    Liam Archbold said:

    I can appreciate some of the comments ref the LHC being a waste of money – but I’m sure that the same comments were made prior to the wasted money involved in finding cures for cancer,TB,leprosy and all the other diseases that have plagued mankind since day one!

    I feel proud that I am part of this wonderful humanity.

  7. Report this comment

    Bob V said:

    Prince Kadyan said…" All of today’s developments are credited to such experiments"

    That’s not true, my friend.

    Ever hear of penicillin?

    The research cost practically nothing and it’s saved many lives.

    More than you can say for the Supercollider

  8. Report this comment

    Patrick said:

    The lhc is the biggest most blatant and most in your face waste of money in the world right now. Surely the money would be better spent on seeking a cure for cancer or aids or the improvement of base requirements like clean watersupplies and foodstuffs for peoples in need of such things?? Do we really need to know how the universe was created? What is the point? Arent there more pressing needs in the world right now. One could spend the rest of the day listing off places and peoples where that money would be better spent. Its obvious really, and that is the great shame and object and mystery as to why and how its allowed to go on!

  9. Report this comment

    ceris said:

    I agree that there are many causes which need money in the world, however there are also many projects which waste money. You cannot say that the money spent on the LHC would have been better spent on looking for a cure for cancer unless you also quote the amount of money spent on cancer research. Yes the LHC is not such an urgent cause however unless every single person decides to donate all of their spare money to good causes your argument makes no sense. The LHC is a scientific project seeking to answer fundamental questions about the universe. Many Arts and Humanities projects have even less obvious purpose, however no-one asks why we spend this money. The LHC may produce many benefits for mankind which are yet unknown, but more importantly it represents humanities creativity and ingenuity.

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