First Protons Whiz Around the Large Hadron Collider's Track

By Eliza Strickland | September 10, 2008 8:29 am

Large Hadron peopleToday at 10 a.m. Swiss time, researchers fired up the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), successfully sending a stream of protons all the way around a 17-mile track for the first time. The enormous collider has been eagerly anticipated by physicists, who hope the device will answer questions about the behavior of subatomic particles and reveal secrets of the universe, but some people have also worried (needlessly, physicists say) that its unprecedented experiments will cause the world to end. For all that hype, the action today was somewhat anticlimatic: Two white dots flashed on a computer screen indicating that the protons reached the final point of the world’s largest particle collider [AP].

As many scientists have pointed out, today’s test run didn’t involve any actual collisions; those will come later when particles shoot around the track in both directions and smash into each other. Therefore today’s event could never have produced any breathtaking results, it was simply intended to test the equipment.

Physicists do have good reason to be delighted that the LHC is finally ready for action. The LHC is a US$4.1 billion proton smasher that, when operating at full strength, will be much more powerful than any accelerator to date. Using superconducting magnets, it will accelerate bunches of protons to nearly the speed of light — and collide them at energies of 7 teraelectronvolts (trillion electronvolts). As energy and mass are equivalent under Einstein’s rules of relativity, researchers hope that the collisions will generate super-heavy and hitherto unseen particles [Nature News].

The first experiments are likely to involve a hunt for a hypothetical particle called the Higgs boson, an elusive particle first predicted in the 1960s which is thought to endow other particles with mass. However, there are piles of other questions that the LHC can tackle. Physicists say they hope to prove within two years the existence of a particle that creates dark matter…. As the first beams of protons begin to lap at 11,000 revolutions a second, the resulting collisions may help explain the building materials of about a fifth of the missing universe. They may also reveal what so-called dark energy is and why the expansion of the universe is accelerating instead of slowing, as predicted by theory [Bloomberg].

Learn why physicists are pretty darn sure that the Large Hadron Collider won’t destroy our planet in DISCOVER’s article, “The Extremely Long Odds Against the Destruction of the Earth.”

Image: CERN

Related Posts: All Systems Go for World’s Largest Particle Smasher
The Large Hadron Collider Will Finally Start Smashing in September
Physics Experiment Won’t Destroy Earth

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Physics & Math
  • http://www.votetheday.com votetheday.com

    Gosh, it’s just a big atom smasher, and the possibility of something dangerous to happen is too small for that something to happen ;) If it would have been real risk, scientists would inform us, or take measures against it, or, after all, never would have thought of taking this idea to reality. So stop worrying, listen to common sense and do not let this rumor by fools take over your mind. There are very little people, who really believe it’s dangerous – http://www.votetheday.com/polls/worlds-largest-particle-accelerator-experiment-214/, but looks like panic is a very hazardous thing, ha?

  • http://www.lhcfacts.org JTankers

    The safety opposition alleges CERN is misrepresenting the certainty of safety and did not properly address compelling safety rebuttal papers by credible senior scientists including visiting professor of Physics Dr. Otto Rössler and Physics PHD Dr. Rainer Plaga.

    Dr. Steven Hawking estimates a 1% chance that micro black holes will be created by the Large Hadron Collider, CERN estimated possible micro black hole creation at one per second, micro black hole evaporation and cosmic ray safety arguments are disputed.

    Dr. Rössler (of Chaos theory and Endophysics fame) calculates possible danger, senior Physics PHD Dr. Rainer Plaga (wrote one of the reports refuting CERN’s safety conclusions) calculates possible danger, former Nuclear Safety Officer Walter L. Wagner (cosmic ray researcher and California Math champion) calculates possible danger.

    To demand a safety conference before high energy collisions begin contact LHCDefense.org

    LHCFacts.org

  • PyroFossa

    @JTankers
    First of all, micro black holes pose no risk; due to their size, the micro black holes will evaporate in a fraction of a fraction of a second. Thus, the micro black holes will have virtually no impact.

    Secondly, danger is always present, no matter what one is doing. Of course, due to the sizes of the particles being dealt with, quantum uncertainty and other ‘quantum weirdnesses’ come into effect. So, yes, there is possible danger, but that probability is extremely small, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

  • NickW

    I would like to agree with that notion. It seems that even if a minor threat exists it is still worth the potentiality of obtaining such a vast amount of knowledge. Furthermore, with the exception of the nearly unsupportable idea that this could destroy the planet, many dangerous and experimental theories have been tested hundreds of times and none have proven to be detrimental. Also, it is inevitably unnecessary to argue with scientific experiments such as this because so long as we are here to DISCOVER them, we must pursue every legitimate possibility!

  • http://private TheSavageAtheist

    The thing that all these fear mongers / religulous folk always look past is the fact that particles are colliding with more energy into the earths magnetic field constantly (and through our bodies). But fear is always rooted from lack of understanding – if you choose to be ignorant do it in silence and let the thinkers of the species carry science and understanding further with out your claptrap.

  • Dana Manley

    Who knows what holds time/space intervals from each other? But a black hole is a result of a failure of the boundary between them. A larger slower Universe being sucked into a smaller faster one like a vacuum. This test may punch a hole in that boundary! This may be a natural safe guard to prevent juvenile intelligent beings from propagating the galaxy? They open the door and poof! Only mature patient species get past it? And I was so hoping for The United Federation of Planets!

  • Hmm

    It is the big bang theory starting all over again! :D

  • brian

    If a butterfly flaps its wings…

  • david

    When the first A-bomb was set off many educated people said the world would burn. Nateral laws has a way to minimize destruction. God put them there to protect us.

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