My Excellent CERN Adventure: the video

By Phil Plait | April 27, 2008 10:35 pm

It’s difficult to express just how fracking impressive the Large Hadron Collider is. You really have to be there to understand how overwhelming and ginormous it is. Still and all, maybe the video I took of the tour will help get the idea across (if you go to that YouTube page, there is a link right under the video that allows you to watch it in higher quality. I recommend doing that).

ATLAS and CMS are detectors, built to detect the shrapnel from the collisions of protons moving just a whisper slower than light itself. For the cast of characters and a description of this tour, take a look at my earlier post describing it. There are pictures there from the journey as well.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Science, Video Blog

Comments (37)

  1. Fracking/Frakking… Very BSG of you!
    Excellent video! I am looking forward what will be discovered, when the LHC is operational!!

  2. madge

    GREAT Vid Phil! I would do ANYTHING to be a part of this awesome undertaking (polish the scaffolding, sweep the tunnels ) Thanks for taking us along : )

  3. Jeezus! They’ve built the Krell Machine!

    That was my first impression when you tilted the camera down the shaft. I could almost hear Morbius say “20 miles…”

    – Jack

  4. Rowsdower

    No, the globe wasn’t a trojan hadron. It’s the large hadron that they’re going to collide. I mean it IS the Large Hadron Collider.

  5. Awesome video! When I last visited CERN the LHC was still the LEC and they haven’t already started the work on the LHC. By the way, is there a new rule that you have to wear helmet when visiting the LHC or was this because of construction still done at the site?

    Greetings from Germany!

  6. That is DEFINATLEY the kind of place I’m gonna get when I move out of my parents house.

    Anyone? Anyone get that reference?

  7. Chip

    Are you sure the Krel didn’t build this?

  8. Astro

    @Stargazer: It is now compulsory to have a helmet and security shoes and an oxygen regenerator mask when going in the tunnel. Plus they just put the biometric (iris recognition) control at the entrance gates.

  9. Matthew J. Barlow

    Sometime in June or July BBC Radio 4 are having a day about the CERN project, including a specially written Torchwood radio play.

  10. Holy Half-Life (?), Phil.

    That place is amazing. I hope you took your crowbar in case you ran into a headcrab. ūüėÄ

  11. The ? above – it wouldn’t let me use a lambda.

  12. Rich A

    Wow, just wow. When he looked down the access shaft did anyone else think of the death of the emperor in return of the jedi?

  13. Celtic_Evolution

    I am simply humbled… just spectacular.

    Thanks for sharing, BA…

  14. Gary Ansorge

    So, I guess if they detect the Higgs Boson, it will go a LOOOONG way toward deciding between competing string theories. Now, THAT”S something I am in anticipation off. One (theory) to find them, one (theory) to bind them,,,ah, The Ring strikes again,,,
    ,,,well, the LHC is a RING of fire,,,or radiating protons,,,

    ,,,so cool,,,

    Gary 7

  15. Mark Martin

    The Trojan Hadron is really the inspiration for the magnetic bottle used in Dan Brown’s novel. He was inspired by an attempt at CERN to build a real storage bottle for charged anti-particles. Turned out that, for one gram of p-bars, the coulomb repulsion force dictated a sphere of very large radius. The Trojan Hadron is that sphere!! Once it was determined that it absolutely would not fit into anyone’s back pocket, all plans to sneak it into the Vatican were called off.

  16. Mark Martin

    It could actually be more scientifically productive if the Higgs is not found within the energy domain predicted. It can be valuable for it to not be found at all by the LHC. When theory fails at such a critical point, therein lies guidance to make a better theory.

  17. Tommy Duchesne

    What is the probability that we discover nothing at all? I of course don’t wish it happens!

  18. Will. M

    It would be interesting to see where and how the parts for this undertaking were manufactured; also, how the parts were engineered: with what criteria were the designers concerned when trying to determine materials which might meet the criteria – I mean in a general sense, of course, without giving away any trade secrets.

  19. Navneeth
  20. Mark Martin


    There aren’t really any secrets. There’s nothing proprietary about the engineering of the accelerator. It’s pretty much just up-to-date variants on machinery that’s been in use for several decades, in other accelerators.

    Many of the magnets in were manufactured at several other accelerator labs with great expertise in this specialty, such as Fermilab, near Chicago, and KEK, near Tsukuba, Japan. There are probably other sites as well, though I don’t recall them by name.

    The design parameters are constrained by the ultimate needs of the experiments to be done at the LHC. The key parameter of course is the kinetic energy of the particles. A certain minimum energy is essential to generating certain collision products reliably. A Higgs boson is expected to have a mass within some interval. Each proton/anti-proton pair, as they annihilate, will provide energy equal to their combined rest-mass. A Higgs will be much more massive than that, so they must be pumped with lots of kinetic energy. Protons are of course electrically charged, so they tend to radiate some of their energy away as their paths are bent into a circle. For a given radius, there’s a speed at which the proton will radiate energy as fast as it can be pumped with more. After that, the machine could pump in energy all day long and not increase the energy of the protons. The only solution is to make an accelerator with a larger radius. That’s where the 27 km circumference comes from. That’s where the machine will be able to get the particles up to the energy of the Higgs boson.

    Other considerations are things such as the so-called luminosity of the collisions. The luminosity is the rate at which the protons & anti-protons can be collided, so as to annihilate. The more particles that can be collided in each run, the more opportunities there are for the products to include the Higgs. (The Higgs, or any other particle, won’t be produced in every single collision. The collision products are governed by quantum mechanics, so there’s a probability with each annihilation of producing any specific particle. As the number of collisions increases, so also does the chance that every possible product for that energy will be generated and detected.) So anyway, the luminosity also governs things such as the strengths of the magnets. The strengths of the magnets, in turn, govern how much source electrical power the machine will need to draw, and so on.

    One thing which helps mitigate electrical power usage is by using superconducting magnets. These magnets carry their electrical currents without resistive loss when at very low temperature. This means the machine is more energy efficient. So that’s another major engineering consideration, incorporating cryogenic jackets (carrying liquid helium) into the magnet design. This then dictates how the system will be networked together to deliver the helium from a nearby facility for generating it. (When Fermilab’s superconducting Tevatron went online, its liquid helium plant became the largest in the world, generating something like 1/2 of all liquid helium. The LHC’s needs will be much greater, so CERN’s helium facility will undoubtedly multiply the world’s helium production.)

  21. Incredibly impressive! It really is impressive to think of all the things that go into something like that, aside from just the great science that goes into the initial design and the purpose of it etc. the sheer engineering feat of getting it up and running is awe-inspiring to me.

    P.S. I’m hella jelous lol

  22. DrFlimmer

    That was one of the most fantastic videos I watched on your blog, Phil! Really, you’ve done an excellent job! Really, really amazing!

    The weird part actually on this video for me is, that I don’t get the scales. n this video, it doesn’t look so big – so it’s good that you give up some hints what the scale actually is!

    I MUST see this thing, there is no way providing this….. oh, of course before the created black hole we suck us all up ūüėČ ūüėõ

  23. Peter Eldergill

    You used the words “metres” and “kilometres” so many times I thought you were Canadian :)

    I also note the spell checker says I’ve spelled metre incorrectly. HA!

    Cool video


  24. Buzz Parsec

    Looks like a great place to film a Bond flick.

  25. Ken

    Holy crap, I didn’t realise how enormous it was. I used to think that nobody would build the giant underground labs so favoured by various storytellers. It gives me hope that funding for such a project could be found in the first place. Who cares about science when there is babies what need diapers?

  26. you should dub the soundtrack to firbidden planet into that vid.

    ‘‚ÄúPrepare your minds for a new scale of physical scientific values, gentlemen‚ÄĚ

  27. Wow. Just wow.

  28. Zombi

    If they do this in May.Were all going to die ;(

  29. Nothing to worry about LHC this is only test because we have no any lab except small lab. where there we can test protons collision so we construct it but we not received extra information about universe because the theory of atom follow to our view not hole universe.

    Our scientist want to gravity responsible element or particles or dimensions like four and fifth, UFO always run another dimensions that’s by no effect of gravity on their ship

    If we found leader of protons particle which guide like DNA (biology) so we can fite against gravity and run our ship about 1000 time of speed of light.

    And also know about un imagine universe (theory of atom). And go un reached universe travels.

  30. Jarne De Clercq

    I’ve got a question Phil, is it possible for everyone to visit the cern and the LHC?

  31. Rob

    Regarding the above question, as large as the LHC may be I don’t think we could fit 7 billion people in it.


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