Monday, May 07, 2007

The World's Biggest Particle Accelerator

CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has been fascinating me ever since I first heard about it a month or so ago.

Some links:

NPR: Massive Particle Accelerator Revving Up
This fall, physicists plan to throw the switch on what is arguably the largest and most complex science experiment ever conducted. An underground ring of superconducting magnets, reaching from Switzerland into France, will smash together subatomic particles at incredible force.

Physicists say they're not sure what will emerge from those collisions. They're hunting a mysterious, hypothetical particle called the Higgs boson. It is also possible they will make miniature black holes, or discover new dimensions of space-time.

NPR: The World's Largest Particle Accelerator
Trucks roll by carrying big, superconducting magnets that look like missiles, and other brightly colored pieces of scientific equipment. The pieces are all taken to warehouse-sized buildings, where they disappear down shafts that reach 300 feet into the earth. The work is all part of an $8 billion project at the international physics laboratory called CERN.

The New Yorker: Crash Course
The opening sentence of the paper declared, “With the upcoming turn-on of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), high energy physics is on the verge of entering its most exciting period in a generation.” (A later sentence noted, “As the reader might find intuitive, we can tremendously improve our scheme over the constant approximation by including the leading order near-threshold behavior of matrix elements.”)

CERN: What is LHC?
As well as having the highest energy of any accelerator in the world, the LHC will also have the most intense beams. Collisions will happen so fast (800 million times a second) that particles from one collision will still be travelling through the detector when the next collision happens. Understanding what happens in these collisions is the key to the LHC's success.

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