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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 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.


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