Today on the LHC's 17-mile long track on the Franco-Swiss border, researchers powered up the particle collider to a combined energy of 7 TeV, an incredible amount of power not seen packed into single particles since our universe's early days.  (Source: Mark Dowe's Journal)

Renowned British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking surveys the LHC. It will take physicists like Hawking years of research to use the data collected at the LHC to unlock the secrets of the universe.  (Source: CERN)
Collider is operating at unbelievable levels of power

There's an enormous amount of energy inside a single atom.  Unleashing this energy has flattened cities and today provides 20 percent of our nation's power.  But what if you could pack even more energy into a single proton, one of the positively charged particles that makes up the atom's nucleus?

That's what researchers at CERN have done with their Large Hadron Collider (LHC).  The LHC accelerates protons with energies above 1 TeV -- equivalent to taking the energy from the 10
23to 1024 atoms in a mosquito and putting it all in a single proton.

Now the LHC is powering up even more in preparation to unlock some of the universe's most puzzling mysteries.  

The LHC first activated in September of 2008, but the ecstasy of the scientific community quickly turned to agony when an expensive malfunction lead to over a year of repairs.  Last August those repairs wrapped up and in November the accelerator was brought back online.  On November 30, 2009 it set the world record for particle collision energy, smashing together two proton beams with energies of 1.18 TeV, for a combined collision of 2.36 TeV.

Today researchers at the LHC have tripled that collision energy, powering the beams up to 3.5 TeV each for a combined power of 7 TeV.  That much energy has not been seen in particles since the days of the Big Bang -- the dawn of our universe. 

Even with the repairs, this was a daunting task, worthy of some of the world's brightest minds.  States CERN’s Director for Accelerators and Technology, Steve Myers, "With two beams at 3.5 TeV, we’re on the verge of launching the LHC physics programme. But we’ve still got a lot of work to do before collisions. Just lining the beams up is a challenge in itself: it’s a bit like firing needles across the Atlantic and getting them to collide half way."

CERN Director General Rolf Heuer cautioned, "The LHC is not a turnkey machine. The machine is working well, but we’re still very much in a commissioning phase and we have to recognize that the first attempt to collide is precisely that. It may take hours or even days to get collisions."

However, the researchers' persistence paid off.  The collisions started at 8:30 CEST and by 13:06 CEST they achieved the world's first 7 TeV collision.

Where does dark energy come from?   Are the forces of the universe all manifestations of a single unified force? 

The LHC's high energy collisions may eventually answer some of these questions.  However, it will take years of analysis for physicists to put them in context.  They are already working on the over 1 million collisions recorded at the LHC in 2009.  Data from these collisions has been spread out across a computer grid, after being collected by the LHC's sensor packages -- ALICE, ATLAS, CMS and LHCb.  

Among the researchers' first priorities is to "re-discover" known Standard Model particles, such as electrons, photons, and quarks.  Then they can turn their attention to the hunt for exotic particles like the theorized Higgs boson, nicknamed the "God Particle" by some in research community.

A webcast of the day's events is available to the general public here.

"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007

Most Popular Articles

Copyright 2018 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki