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.
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
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."
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.
quote: 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.