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Large Hadron Collider eclipses record for high-energy collisions

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


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CERN staff watching LHC collisionsSo far, 2009 has been a much kinder year to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) than 2008 was. The gargantuan particle accelerator, sidelined for more than a year after a breakdown halted its initial run shortly after start-up in September 2008, has been steadily clearing performance benchmarks since resuming operations on November 20 of this year. In the weeks since the LHC’s long-awaited reboot, the collider’s operators have been putting the machine through its paces, circulating proton beams in both directions through the collider’s 27-kilometer underground ring outside Geneva and later accelerating beams to world-record energies.

Now CERN, the European laboratory for particle physics that runs the LHC, can claim another record for their prized machine. On Tuesday the record-setting beams, accelerated in opposite directions to energies of 1.2 TeV (tera–electron volts), collided for the first time, the most energetic particle crash ever orchestrated in a collider. The reigning champ before the LHC’s rebirth was Fermilab’s Tevatron in Batavia, Ill., which can accelerate beams up to 0.98 TeV. Over time, CERN plans to ramp up the LHC’s beams toward the design energy of 7 TeV.

Physicists arrange high-energy collisions to observe the debris they generate: the exotic and short-lived particles that come flying off. Those particles hint not only at the makeup of matter at the smallest scales but also how the largest structures in the universe came to be. The higher the energy achieved, the more closely physicists can replicate conditions that existed shortly after the big bang. For a detailed description of the new realms of physics the LHC could open up, see our In-Depth Report from 2008, when the collider was nearing its first—and ultimately troubled—start-up.

LHC personnel awaiting collisions of 0.9 TeV on December 6: CERN





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  1. 1. Michael Hanlon 5:56 pm 12/10/2009

    It’s still here. we’re still here. Congratulations!

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  2. 2. joeldooris 9:03 am 12/11/2009

    This morning I put two flash lights pointing at each other. I felt like I was running my own particle accelerator. I am so cool!

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  3. 3. Johnsf 9:27 am 12/11/2009

    Joel, were you wearing lab goggles? Could be very dangerous.

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  4. 4. quick65 3:42 pm 12/11/2009

    And then a bird flew by and dropped a baguette chunk on my head and made me drop one of the flashlights.

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  5. 5. quick65 3:42 pm 12/11/2009

    And then a bird flew by and dropped a chunk of my breakfast begal on my head, causing me to drop one of the flashlights.

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  6. 6. quantummechanicsville 5:57 pm 12/11/2009

    I wonder if the scientists have considered their information in a context outside of the big-bang theory. After all it is just a theory (vs a law like Newton’s Law(s) for instance).

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  7. 7. Michael Hanlon 7:31 pm 12/11/2009

    joeldooris, I did you one better. I put my Flashlights in my freezer pointed at the hole in a toroidal magnet. Now all my food tastes quirky.

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  8. 8. Michael Hanlon 7:32 pm 12/11/2009

    QUARKY, sorry, but it tastes good on dirty baquettes

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  9. 9. gl491 12:51 pm 12/12/2009

    Seriously, I’d heard the accelerator was permantly crippled from its accident last year. Since repair, will it be able to achieve the energy levels it was originally designed for?

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  10. 10. degbyah@yahoo.com 9:48 pm 12/12/2009

    Bravo CERN! Prove "In the Beginning Was the Word (or Sound)A Small Hot ball of Heat, containing all Radiant Energy and Fundamental Particles in the Space called today the Universe!

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  11. 11. rmynatt 11:54 pm 12/12/2009

    Bravo!!!

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  12. 12. rmynatt 11:57 pm 12/12/2009

    Don’t you mean "today called the Universe"? I sometimes think backwards too!!! lol

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  13. 13. rmynatt 12:01 am 12/13/2009

    The accelerator was only partially damaged due to a bad soddering point, and I know I spelled that wrong, but oh well you get the point. The damage was really only superficial, mainly hitting some of the magnets.

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  14. 14. Michael Hanlon 4:20 pm 12/13/2009

    No, rmynatt, I heard his phone ringing from here. His ring tone is "ssssssssspop". The Universe actually called him.
    I think the light staying on in my fridge is messing up my experiment with the flashlights. Gonna have to climb in and make sure the light goes out when the door closes. The extra photons would give me 1.34×10**-23 tev’s and that would frost my magnet.

    Link to this
  15. 15. Michael R 3:35 pm 10/6/2010

    November 20 of last year…. not this year ! …please correct

    Link to this
  16. 16. Michael R 3:37 pm 10/6/2010

    November 20 of last year..not this year! please correct..

    Link to this

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