Bronze-level articleLarge Hadron Collider

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An aerial view of CERN's new toy

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a kick ass piece of scientific machinery designed to replicate conditions immediately after the Big Bang and also to search for other dimensions as predicted by string theory, probe the existence of dark matter and search for the elusive Higgs boson particle (now found) which gives matter mass. Guess what? It collides hadrons. And it's pretty damn large.

There are also other smaller projects to be conducted along with the main research. The LHC is located at the CERN facilty and is contained within a 27 kilometre (16.7 miles) long tunnel that straddles the border between France and Switzerland. The Large Hadron Collider is the largest and most complex scientific instrument ever built and the highest energy particle accelerator in the world.[1]

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[edit] Problems

While highly anticipated by many people it has been fraught with delays and budget problems, exceeding six billion dollars in construction costs. All of these have served to make it a major lightning rod for all the various anti-science factions. It has been attacked by everyone from the extremists, such as religious fundamentalist and Illuminati conspiracy theorists, to the mundane, with criticism of its costs and purpose. It was turned on for the first time in September 2008, however it suffered a major fault just 9 days later. It restarted again in late November 2009 and has already set the record as the world's most powerful particle accelerator.[2]

[edit] This is all very interesting but how does it work?

The schematics. But in Polish.
The ATLAS detector, partially built, in 2005. The eight things that look like pipes are toroidal magnets.
The CMS detector in 2007.
Recreating the Big Bang: the most extreme historical re-enactment society ever.
BBC: Armando Ianucci's Charm Offensive

Particles enter the LHC through a series of small particle accelerators (in a ring shape), each one pushing the particle closer and closer to the speed of light until they are released into the larger LHC ring. At the same time, another particle is released in the opposite direction. When these particles collide they release enormous amounts of energy. This energy is recorded by four giant detectors called ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment), CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid), ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus) and LHCb (Large Hadron Collider beauty).[3] All this data is processed using a new system of computing called "The Grid." The Grid consists of 80,000 computers in 50 countries all designed to number crunch the huge amounts of data the LHC is expected to produce, which amounts to 15 thousand terabytes (or 15 petabytes) per annum.[4]

[edit] Safety concerns

The lead-up to the switch-on was a cause for concern among people who didn't know all the physics. Some were worried that it would create a black hole and destroy the Earth. (The black hole problem is potentially real, but cosmic rays that are more energetic than those CERN produces regularly bombard Earth without ill effect.) Others (who'd probably been watching too much Stargate playing too much Half-Life) posited an alien invasion via an LHC-created wormhole.[5] Another fear was that the entire universe would undergo Total Existence Failure, although this is infinitely improbable.[6][7] According to one Walter L. Wagner, a high school teacher from Hawaii, the LHC had a 50% chance to destroy the earth: either it would, or it wouldn't.[8]

A further possibility put forward[9] was that the universe would vanish, to be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There are some,[10] however, who think that this has already happened. The popularity of the TV series Ancient Aliens is potential evidence of this.

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

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