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The LHC particle accelerator, located beneath the Franco-Swiss border, is now the world's highest energy particle accelerator.  (Source: Entropy Bound)

The LHC is packed with some of the world's most advanced electronics and should unlock some incredible physics secrets.  (Source: Terra Cotta)
The Large Hadron Collider is finally getting serious, pushing the limits of particle physics

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was long billed to become the world's most powerful particle accelerator.  However, a failure last year shut it down, necessitating a yearlong repair.  Earlier this month the accelerator was fired back up and last week it completed an important benchmark -- completing its first "low" energy collisions.

The LHC, located underneath the Franco-Swiss border, accelerates streams of protons along a 17-mile long circular track, at speeds close to the speed of light.  The proton beams, contained by powerful superconducting electromagnets, travel in opposite directions and cross at intersections.  At these intersections violent collisions occur, which are logged and analyzed by advanced detectors.

Now the scientists with European Organization for Nuclear Research (better known by its French acronym CERN) are pumping up the energy of the beams and have set an incredible record.  They have upped the beam energy to 1.18 trillion electron volts at 2344 GMT on Sunday.  Before that, the beams had been operating at 450 billion electron volts to verify that everything was working properly.

To put this in context, a mosquito's entire body has approximately 1 TeV in kinetic energy.  Mosquitoes, though, have approximately 1023 to 1024 atoms in them, each with one or more protons.  The LHC puts the equivalent energy of these countless trillions of atoms into a single proton, an incredible accomplishment.

The LHC now stands as king of the particle accelerator world, deposing the former best, the Tevatron.  Located within the U.S. near Batvia, Illinois, the Tevatron was capable of operation at 0.98 trillion electron volts since 2001.  It is likely to be soon shut down, now that the LHC appears ready to take over duties as the world's strongest particle accelerator.

CERN's director general Rolf Heuer was pleased with the news but remained reserved, stating, "We are still coming to terms with just how smoothly the LHC commissioning is going.  It is fantastic. However, we are continuing to take it step-by-step, and there is still a lot to do before we start physics in 2010. I'm keeping my champagne on ice until then."

In 2010, the LHC is expected to pump the beams up to an unbelievable 7 TeV -- over 7 times the previous record.  With collisions at a net energy of 14 TeV, the accelerator is expected to unlock some of the universe's strangest mysteries, such as the detection of the long theorized Higgs boson, nicknamed the "God particle".  That's not too shabby for a particle accelerator with the prospective net energy of 14 mosquitoes.

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RE: C'mon, Dailytech
By sloanb27 on 11/30/2009 12:03:34 PM , Rating: 4
An estimated amount is not counting. Counting would take more than one lifetime, so in essence...they are "countless".

If you counted to a billion, going as fast as 2 numbers every second, it would take you nearly 17 years (16.75 or so) to reach 1 billion. We are talking millions of billions here!

RE: C'mon, Dailytech
By MrBlastman on 11/30/2009 12:43:36 PM , Rating: 4
That is assuming someone didn't walk up to you and start spouting random numbers while you counted... :P

That would _really_ be bad if you were up to about nine hundred and so million and you lost count.

RE: C'mon, Dailytech
By invidious on 11/30/2009 12:58:19 PM , Rating: 2
mass of object divided by mass of atom equals number of atoms. counting is determining the quantity, it does not specify the means used to do so.

RE: C'mon, Dailytech
By gfxBill on 11/30/2009 3:12:50 PM , Rating: 3
You're confusing counting with calculating...

Counting : a. To name or list one by one in order to determine a total; b. To recite numerals in ascending order

RE: C'mon, Dailytech
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 12/1/09, Rating: 0
RE: C'mon, Dailytech
By jRaskell on 12/1/2009 3:47:06 PM , Rating: 4
That is an extremely oversimplified example. How would you propose modifying that code to detect and count each individual atom within a mosquito?

That is, of course a rhetorical question, because the fact is you can't.

We simply don't have the ability to reasonably count individual atoms within any given object. We can only calculate an approximate number of atoms within said object. With the proper measuring device, that approximation can indeed get very very close to the actual number, but never exact down to a single atom.

RE: C'mon, Dailytech
By safcman84 on 12/1/2009 9:28:48 AM , Rating: 2
mass of object divided by mass of atom equals number of atoms. counting is determining the quantity, it does not specify the means used to do so.

Well, you would be right........

IF every atom in the mosquito was the same. Which they are not, so you can't calculate it that way, cos the atoms will all have different mass.

RE: C'mon, Dailytech
By lco45 on 12/1/2009 9:25:19 PM , Rating: 2
You could flash burn the mosquito and perform spectrographic analysis to determine the proportions of each element, then solve the equation for the total number of atoms.


RE: C'mon, Dailytech
By MrDiSante on 11/30/2009 3:20:10 PM , Rating: 2
It's really rather too bad that he didn't say uncountable, that would have been cringeworthily wrong (countability and uncountability in mathematics refer to the sizes of sets; a countable set is one where you can give each element an index (i.e. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc), an uncountable set is one where you cannot .

RE: C'mon, Dailytech
By micksh on 12/1/2009 10:00:59 AM , Rating: 2
A good advertising line for hard drive manufacturers:

Our drives contain countless number of bytes!

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen

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