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The LHC conducted its first collisions, pictured here, in 2009. It plans to operate at low power in 2010 and 2011 and then undergo an upgrade before leaping directly to full power.  (Source: CERN)

The LHC cost over $9B USD to complete, but promises to unlock some of the universe's most compelling mysteries.  (Source: CERN)
Full power collisions will begin in 2013 -- after upgrade

September of 2008 was set to be a landmark year for the physics community.  The Large Hadron Collider, a massive 17-mile-long track beneath the Franco-Swiss border was coming online and promised to at last allow physicists to glimpse the long theorized, but never observed Higgs boson, nicknamed the "God particle".

However, a malfunction killed those hopes, pushing the launch back to 2009.  A cold winter slowed repairs and it was August 2009 when the repairs finally wrapped up.  In November the collider was brought back online at last.  Within days it recorded its first collisions and before long set a new world record -- despite operating at a mere fraction of its prospective power.

Amid a winter shutdown, researchers are now planning their next move, even as they sift through a wealth of data collected from the initial collisions.  This week they laid out an ambitious plan for the collider.

In 2010 and 2011 they plan to operate the collider at 3.5 TeV per beam, much more than 1.18 TeV per beam recorded in November, and significantly more than the previous record holder, the U.S.-based Fermilab, which has achieved 1 TeV beams.  To put these numbers in context, a mosquito has about 1 TeV in kinetic energy -- but it has 10
23 to 1024 atoms in them, many with dozens of protons.  The LHC is packing all this energy into a single proton -- a feat akin to packing all the people in the world into a square smaller than the tiniest transistor.

According to the LHC road map, the collider will shut down in 2012, skipping "mid-range" collisions of around 5 TeV per beam.  Instead, it will receive a circuitry upgrade to help it handle its peak designed power -- 7 TeV per beam.  In 2013 it will begin collisions at a record combined energy of about 14 TeV -- about 14 mosquitoes per proton pair, in layman's terms.

Until the LHC achieves peak power in 2013, FermiLab still has a chance to beat it and be the first to observe the Higgs boson.  However, if the particle is less lightweight, it will likely not be observed until the LHC cranks up the juice.

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RE: Weak Forces
By Aloonatic on 2/4/2010 3:55:29 AM , Rating: 4
I really don't know whether you and the OP are joking or not.

Assuming that you aren't, the problem that you both seem to have is this. The discoveries that science make are largely taken for granted, overlooked or far beyond the comprehension (and therefore interest) of the average man.

Just being able to build the LHC is a massive achievement. Doing it to test and prove theories. Well what a waste of time that is?!?

Science is moving non stop, never resting on it's laurels. It was not so long ago (well, maybe a little longer than I would like to admit) but when I was looking at university physics departments, being able to make stable integrated circuits and chips that were able to run over 1GHz was pretty much theory. Now it's something that you take for granted and you may even have something on you lap doing just that right now, or perhaps even in your pocket.

Sure there are dead ends from time to time. Very bright people waste their lives chasing after a theory and trying to prove something, but breakthroughs are being made all the time, and man is moving on. As ideas get more complex and the equipment more expensive then it may appear to be a waste of time (and money) but I'm willing to go along with it, and am quite able to ignore the junk sconce and "god particle" tabloid nonsense too.

I hope you join me, else go back to using technology that was made 50 years ago, and maybe I'll give you a phone call and we can carry on the debate that way.

RE: Weak Forces
By AnnihilatorX on 2/4/2010 4:09:10 AM , Rating: 2
I agree, even if it fails to find anything, that's a discovery on itself.

The engineering work that went into the LHC is nothing short of a marvel. I can say that no place in the earth at the moment has so much technology packed into the same place as LHC. Even if the experiment fail, I am sure a lot had been learnt about international collaboration, control theory, superconductors, detection of particles.

I still see LHC recruiting summer internship for students. Tell me this has no benefits to anyone whatsoever.

RE: Weak Forces
By theArchMichael on 2/4/2010 11:13:41 AM , Rating: 2
Not to mention that in the bigger scheme of things, $9 billion USD is a drop in the bucket in comparison to other budgetary investments into "more practical" engineering projects and ventures. Consider this, the new JSF fighters total development cost was somewhere in the region of $40 billion USD (when a dollar was worth more too). That is $40 billion dollars for analysis, design and development resources followed by an estimated $200 billion dollars of purchasing costs for what would be (for all intents and purposes) an incremental upgrade for many of the member nations' air forces (United States, Great Britain, etc.). Also, considering that the LHC is probably the most significant human scientific endeavor since the space program (emblematically or financially at the very least). $9 billion is really just a trifle.
Science gets little to no respect nowadays, but then you get cursed out by the masses when you mention lowering the military's $0.5 trillion a year budget or if dont have a yellow ribbon bumper sticker.

RE: Weak Forces
By mcnabney on 2/4/2010 4:57:53 PM , Rating: 1
Besides making/finding some radioactive isotopes there is almost no practical benefit to any atom smasher - regardless of size. It is true Blue Sky research and experimentation. Any benefits in ironing out unification theories won't be capitalized on for a century at best.

You want to spend billions on a practical science project? Find a way to get 'stuff' in orbit cheaply.

I imagine a huge ass EM accelerator could be built up the side of one of the world's tallest mountains for less than the LHC. At least that device would serve to place materials and supplies into orbit for a tiny fraction of the current cost of $10-15k per pound.

RE: Weak Forces
By Aloonatic on 2/4/2010 6:42:28 PM , Rating: 3
I imagine a huge ass EM accelerator...
Ah yes, who needs science and research when you can just imagine...

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