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Large Hadron Collider reaches an initial energy milestone

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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LHC, CERN, physicsThe embattled Large Hadron Collider (LHC) reached its first major milestone Monday as it accelerated its twin beams of protons to 1.18 TeV (more than one trillion electron volts) of energy, eclipsing the previous record of 0.98 TeV (tera–electron volts) of energy held by Fermi National Accelerator Lab’s Tevatron in Batavia, Ill., since 2001, according to the European Organization for Nuclear Research, aka CERN.

The LHC’s mission is to help scientists better understand the origins of the universe, explain why particles have mass and search for dark matter. Just 10 days ago, CERN woke the world’s most powerful particle accelerator from a yearlong slumber, during which scientists repaired a helium leak caused by a faulty electrical connection. The LHC has already outlasted its previous run, which ended in September 2008, nine days after beams began circulating. Since that time CERN has been repairing, upgrading and recommissioning the machine.

Today’s success nearly matched the 1.2 TeV of energy that CERN scientists had been shooting for as an initial target. The eventual goal is for the LHC to accelerate protons to seven TeV of energy, 7,000 times as much energy as a proton at rest has embodied in its mass, according to a February 2008 Scientific American special report on the LHC. At maximum strength, the LHC’s circulating particles are expected to "carry energy roughly equal to the kinetic energy of about 900 cars traveling at 100 kilometers per hour, or enough to heat the water for nearly 2,000 liters of coffee," Scientific American reported.

The goal of the more than 5,000 scientists, engineers and students working on the project is to pass a number of milestones with the LHC—from one beam to two beams to colliding beams; from lower energies to the terascale; from weaker test intensities to stronger ones suitable for producing data at useful rates but more difficult to control, according to Scientific American. As the LHC ramps up, it is expected to work as an incredibly powerful microscope, allowing researchers to peer into the physics of the shortest distances (down to a nano-nanometer) and the highest energies ever probed.

CERN’s next target is to increase the beam intensity to provide "meaningful proton-proton collision rates," the lab said in a news release. The current intensity level was chosen as a stepping stone, so that scientists could ensure that higher intensities can be safely handled and that stable conditions can be guaranteed for the experiments during collisions.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology theoretical physicist Frank Wilczek echoed a common sentiment last year when he mentioned in Scientific American‘s LHC special report that the device could produce "a golden age of physics."

Image of scientists celebrating the LHC’s record-breaking turn © CERN

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  1. 1. atlas 3:23 pm 11/30/2009

    When you are setting world records and making huge progress, you are NOT embattled. Why start your story with such negativity.

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  2. 2. jimg3525 4:11 pm 11/30/2009

    I believe it refers to the doom-sayers, crazies and ignoramuses who have been watching too much Lexx and believe the search for the Higgs will shrink the Earth to the size of a pea.

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  3. 3. malcoda 5:43 pm 11/30/2009

    I for one have considered the LHC embattled. The most expensive machine built by the best minds and engineers the world had to offer…and it melted the first time they turned it on? I know they must be feeling the pressure to succeed this time after such a failure. Surely most of us were wondering and ARE wondering what melt down will occur next? Don’t get me wrong…I am a HUGE fan of the machine and can’t wait for it to bring about a golden age of Physics…but everyday I sit with bated breath hoping I won’t read more bad news for them. I think they won’t stop being embattled until they finally reach their top speeds and collisions and nothing melts! Good luck to us all.

    malcoda

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  4. 4. rshoff 6:25 pm 11/30/2009

    A step forward in the name of science and knowledge!

    Yea!! Go Hadron! Go Hadron!

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  5. 5. robert schmidt 7:03 pm 11/30/2009

    please be aware that this is a one of a kinda machine that is likely the most complex humanity has yet created. It is not a Lexus. One can’t expect it to work perfectly as though it were driven off the line. There are going to be some iterations to fix flaws in construction and design. The same is true for any similar piece of complex technology whether you are talking about colliders, space stations, oil rigs, telecopes, etc. People have to stop thinking of these issues as failures and instead see them as part of the process of development.

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  6. 6. hotblack 2:07 am 12/1/2009

    Way to screw up the comments section, buddy. You want to send Bill Clinton a letter, try sending it to Bill Clinton, not spamming science forums he doesn’t hang out on and hoping someone will do it for you. And for sweet zombie jesus’s sake, get a grip. You’re babbling about twenty completely unrelated things without saying anything at all. Maybe Jupiter will turn inside out and the martian poles will flip over and cook me a ham sandwich powered by my headache while the suns black spots fight off the demons in my head.

    Get a grip!

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  7. 7. mikecimerian 2:55 am 12/1/2009

    Philosophically speaking, hasn’t this "schizoid" process of cracking up open underlaying layers just opened up others?

    It’s a superb piece of engineering, I just wonder if the billions spent will be justified.

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  8. 8. cne3_2000 3:31 am 12/1/2009

    I’d say that the fools in the U.S. Congress that killed the SSC, in particular Dale Bumpers are going to regret their decision if they haven’t already begun to do so.

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  9. 9. oldshelly 4:02 am 12/1/2009

    The time to make predictions is before the experiment, so I am sticking my neck way out.

    I think that if a Higgs is found it will be displaced in time or space or both. How far?? I bid for 1 cm or 1 second! Eny one else want to guess????

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  10. 10. Michael Hanlon 8:48 pm 12/2/2009

    3/4 of the way into 7th dimension

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  11. 11. Michael Hanlon 8:49 pm 12/2/2009

    3/4 of the way into 7th dimension

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  12. 12. Quinn the Eskimo 1:30 am 12/4/2009

    Look at the photograph … go ahead look, we’ll wait.

    They turned on the office lights and the thing didn’t blow up!

    ********MILESTONE********

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  13. 13. Weir 1:16 am 12/5/2009

    Some dissenting scientists have remarked in the past that smashing atoms in particle accelerators is like trying to figure out how a watch works by smashing it to bits. The resulting bits are extremely short lived and there is no compelling reason to believe that they are fundamental building blocks of matter in a presumed Big Bang whether they display resonant patterns or not. The Big Bang is erected primarily on the red shift as interpreted in an assumed spacetime continuum consistent with General Relativity. Late in life Einstein himself questioned that physics could be based on the continuous field concept in which case quote: my entire castle in the sky amounts to nothing, but so does the rest of modern physics. GR and QM have never been reconciled yet both are used in Big Bang physics. Does anyone really believe that such mystical things as probability waves actually exist? The language of physics has run away with itself.

    It is well known yet ignored that there are serious philosophical contradictions inherent in Big Bang theory. The ONLY alternative to a spacetime continuum is a discontinuous universe where space and time are defined a posteriori by the rapid synchronous projection of atomic matter consistent with Plancks constant. Light emitted from atomic processes comes to us as a series of discrete pulses that define external linear space relative to the spherical inner space of each atom. That is why light speed is universal. There are no other universal measuring rods out there. This requires a very different approach to cosmology. Alternate explanations emerge naturally for the red shift and background radiation. It also requires universals as well as particulars in the creative process. But Bells Inequalities and Quantum Correlation already confirm that this must be so, even to the limits of space and time. There is more at http://www.cosmic-mindreach.com. See especially the website article Gravity, Quantum Relativity & System 3.

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  14. 14. elderlybloke 5:48 pm 12/5/2009

    Malcoda,
    Melted, what crap.

    Link to this

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