This is COOL!
I wanted to get that out of the way. Well when they first fired this thing up over a year ago it didn’t go so well. Something broke so they had to go back in and fix it. This isn’t like replacing an alternator on a car. The circumference of the collider is 27km. On top of that it is just insanely complex. Well they worked and worked and yesterday it went back online. I watched some of the webcast. It was great to see all the people there celebrating as it appeared to work as planned.
Well, what IS the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Ok, I’m not really smart enough to type it all up and have it work. So I’m going to take it from the actual site itself. Here are two explanations:
Simple: Take two beams of particles (protons or ions) and send them whizzing around a circular track at 99% the speed of light. Merge the beams near a detector. Watch to see what happens when these little particle smack into one another.
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a gigantic scientific instrument near Geneva, where it spans the border between Switzerland and France about 100 m underground. It is a particle accelerator used by physicists to study the smallest known particles – the fundamental building blocks of all things. It will revolutionise our understanding, from the minuscule world deep within atoms to the vastness of the Universe.
Two beams of subatomic particles called ‘hadrons’ – either protons or lead ions – will travel in opposite directions inside the circular accelerator, gaining energy with every lap. Physicists will use the LHC to recreate the conditions just after the Big Bang, by colliding the two beams head-on at very high energy. Teams of physicists from around the world will analyse the particles created in the collisions using special detectors in a number of experiments dedicated to the LHC.
There are many theories as to what will result from these collisions, but what’s for sure is that a brave new world of physics will emerge from the new accelerator, as knowledge in particle physics goes on to describe the workings of the Universe. For decades, the Standard Model of particle physics has served physicists well as a means of understanding the fundamental laws of Nature, but it does not tell the whole story. Only experimental data using the higher energies reached by the LHC can push knowledge forward, challenging those who seek confirmation of established knowledge, and those who dare to dream beyond the paradigm.
What I found interesting was the power at which is operates. Right now it’s going to 7TeV or Tera-electronvolts. Sounds insane! Though that’s about the same kinetic energy of a mosquito in flight, from what I read. So, I suppose you might not even feel the beam hitting your hand. I want to clarify, that having a ‘few’ particles pass through you isn’t a big deal. Having them pass through you in the trillions IS bad. I understand that’s the rate at which these hadrons will be passing each other; trillions per second. Whoa!
Other cool LHC facts from their site:
At full power, trillions of protons will race around the LHC accelerator ring 11 245 times a second, travelling at 99.99% the speed of light. Two beams of protons will each travel at a maximum energy of 7 TeV (tera-electronvolt), corresponding to head-to-head collisions of 14 TeV. Altogether some 600 million collisions will take place every second.
The data recorded by each of the big experiments at the LHC will fill around 100 000 dual layer DVDs every year. To allow the thousands of scientists scattered around the globe to collaborate on the analysis over the next 15 years (the estimated lifetime of the LHC), tens of thousands of computers located around the world are being harnessed in a distributed computing network called the Grid.
Safety? Yes it’s safe. The bottom line is that collisions like these occur in space all of the time. I think you have as good a chance of passing through a wall with both you and the wall in one piece as this machine creating a killer black hole. So, don’t worry about it. Also, if it DID create a killer black hole, well, no one will be around to care, eh? 🙂
If you made it this far, I commend you and you deserve cool linkage. Here is your gift, a link to see some of the data coming from LHC while it is online. This. is. cool.