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The LHC consists of a $10B USD, 17-mile long particle accelerator track, located beneath the Swiss-French border.  (Source: Mark Dowe's Journal)

The LHC fired its first beams last week and will begin its first collisions this week.  (Source: CERN)
Its been a long road building and tweaking the world's largest particle accelerator

When it comes to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), it was a Herculean enough task simply to build the $10B USD device -- a 17-mile-long circular tunnel between the Franco-Swiss border lined with some of the world's most sophisticated electronics.  However, that proved only to be the first of many challenges in building and bringing online the world's largest particle accelerator.

In September 2008, scientists fired its first beams, however, the celebrations were soon replaced by disappointment when an electric fault caused serious damage to one of the sectors of the circular track.  The accelerator's work was set back and repairs began.  The repairs were further delayed by the onset of winter.

Now, the repairs are complete, and last week scientists fired the accelerator up cautiously for a second time.  The accomplishment was the latest in a series of baby steps that occurred over the last two months.  On October 8, the accelerator completed its chilling cycle, using its vacuum chamber to reach 1.9 degrees Kelvin or about -271 degrees Celsius.

Next, particles were injected on October 23.  Then on November 7, beams were steered through three octants of the machine.  Finally, on November 18, beams were fully circulated around the LHC, an important milestone.

CERN Director General Rolf Heuer states, "It’s great to see beam circulating in the LHC again.  We’ve still got some way to go before physics can begin, but with this milestone we’re well on the way.  It’s been a herculean effort to get to where we are today.  I’d like to thank all those who have taken part, from CERN and from our partner institutions around the world."

This week another integral step will be carried out -- completing collisions to provide calibration data.  This landmark step will mark the accelerator's first collisions.  It will be followed by a slow ramp-up to full-strength collisions, at an energy of 7 TeV (3.5 TeV per beam).

The full-strength collisions are feared by some in the public who worry that they may produce out of control mini-blackholes or strangelets, theoretical particles.  Theoretical physicists insist that after extensive review they have found the risk of such dangers to be virtually nonexistent, and the collisions to be safe. 

Despite these reassurances, the LHC has provoked a diverse response, including in literature and the media.  It is centrally featured in the novel FlashForward by Robert J. Sawyer, and in the television series based on the work.  It is also a major plot device in the Dan Brown book Angels & Demons, in which the Vatican's enemies try to use antimatter created by the accelerator as a weapon of mass destruction.

CERN is set to hold a press conference on Monday afternoon which should hold more juicy details about the accelerator's restart.  The LHC's primary mission is to find the Higgs boson, a theorized, but never observed particle.  Many other secrets of our universe's physical properties should be unraveled along the way.



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By Boze on 11/23/2009 1:35:06 PM , Rating: 5
...bailing out banks and other companies, but we can't build our own version of the LHC, which only cost $10B USD to begin with.

I'm sure that it'd be double or triple that cost here in America due to union workers, the congressmen of whatever state it would be located in throwing in some pork, and other unknown problems, but its still absolutely pathetic that the United States won't be leading the entire world in scientific research.

We have the money, we have the brain power, there should be no reason that we take a second seat to any nation or organization, especially not when basic scientific research is concerned.

I'm not anti-European, mind you, I just think its telling that the richest nation to ever exist on Planet Earth can't spend a paltry $10 billion on science, but we can spend $13+ billion on a single company (General Motors) alone.




By chruschef on 11/23/2009 2:11:41 PM , Rating: 4
Why should the US Govt. fund such an experiment? There isn't a LHC of America lobby. That's beside the point though, the scientific community shouldn't be a competition of countries, the EU had the idea first. Historically our government primarily funds warfare technology, which raises the question: could the LHC be a weapon? lol, Obliterate terrorists via short and tiny black holes. Furthermore, I'd rather not have our country being the group of dumbies fooling around with a LHC.

... Honestly, why is everyone using the term "laughable", as well as"teachable"? They simply mean silly and stupid respectively.


By Spinne on 11/23/2009 2:49:50 PM , Rating: 3
We did try to fund a super-LHC in the 90s. It was called the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) and we went so far as to begin building parts of the tunnel. Ultimately Congress decided that they could fund either the SSC or the International Space Station (ISS). Guess which one won. The SSC was supposed to hit 20 TeV per beam.


By BlazeOne on 11/23/2009 3:11:18 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
We have the money ...

Well, actually you don't. But then again, that never did stop you before.


By ClownPuncher on 11/23/2009 3:34:25 PM , Rating: 5
Almost half of the country has lost/losing their jobs? Seriously, wtf? Some fact checking might be beneficial.


By goz314 on 11/23/2009 3:58:34 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
but we can't build our own version of the LHC, which only cost $10B USD to begin with.


The US already did build its own version of the LHC. It's called the Tevatron. It was built in the late 70s and it has been in operation since the early 80s. It's due to be retired in 2010 because the LHC is bigger and the world doesn't really need two similar accelerators of that scale. I'm surprised you didn't know this.

The LHC is expected to eclipse the Tevatron in terms of energies attained, but it's anyone's guess as to whether it will actually yield any new discoveries beyond those that have already been made by its older sibling.


By Strunf on 11/23/2009 7:31:08 PM , Rating: 2
The LHC can go 7 times higher than the Tevatron, the Tevatron by reference only goes 2 times higher than the SPS (CERN)...

The Tevatron is not getting retired cause the world doesn't need 2 similar accelerators but cause it can't compete with the LHC.


By maugrimtr on 11/24/2009 7:29:03 AM , Rating: 2
People who are clueless about science should stop posting idiot misinformed replies...

The Tevatron is obsolete.


By rs1 on 11/23/2009 5:36:28 PM , Rating: 5
I find it pretty laughable that you turned an article about the LHC into a discussion about bailouts, unions, and other political nonsense. And that you got rated up for it.

No, on second though, I just find it to be very, very sad.


By kontorotsui on 11/23/2009 6:33:43 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
I just think its telling that the richest nation to ever exist on Planet Earth


Sorry my friend, the European Union is the richest.

Please check: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/70...

EU: 18 trillions
USA: 14 trillions


By rs1 on 11/23/2009 7:05:37 PM , Rating: 2
To be fair, the EU is not a nation, it's a collection of nations.


By Hieyeck on 11/30/2009 6:44:05 PM , Rating: 2
To be fair, the original definition of a state is a nation, and the UNITED STATES is a collection of them.

To be fair, the land area of the US is about twice that of the EU.

To be fair, Europeans are half an American are. Literally.

To be fair, I'm just pointing out the irony that whenever someone says "To be fair," they're trying to justify lame excuses.

If life was fair, we'd all be clones.


By Kaleid on 11/23/2009 8:10:07 PM , Rating: 2
Does that also take into account the debt level?

A high GDP is nice and all but if at the same time runs with red numbers then the GDP doesn't really tell that much.


By jezzza234 on 11/23/2009 7:22:55 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
We have the money, we have the brain power, there should be no reason that we take a second seat to any nation or organization, especially not when basic scientific research is concerned


You shouldn't make the mistake of confusing money with brain power. the US has education sure, but thats not the same thing. Any country can produce a brilliant scientist. The idea of CERN is to bring together these brilliant scientists from all over the world. Its not Europe against the US, its just CERN composed of scientists from everywhere. And its not even just CERN, they have enlisted partners from all over the world. Even over here in New Zealand there are scientists involved in the project - one of them was interviewed on the news this week.

I can understand wanting your own country to be the first to make major breakthroughs, but nobody can say that this was all Switzerland or even Europe when they rely on nations world-wide


By MrPoletski on 11/24/2009 3:32:59 AM , Rating: 2
because things like this are far to aetheist for the general us public to get behind.


By DTJCW on 11/24/2009 4:33:45 AM , Rating: 2
I don't think building another LHC in America would have been money well spent. Building a linear accelerator to compliment LHC here America, to research in fine detail new questions opened up by LHC is what America needs to be doing.


By LivingDedBoy on 11/24/2009 5:32:22 PM , Rating: 2
No no the US should focus on making the Alameda Weehawken burrito tunnel a reality.
http://www.idlewords.com/2007/04/the_alameda-weeha...


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