R & amp; R for the LHC
Having completely failed to create a black hole and kill us all, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN is entering the end of its first month of down time. One of the largest experimental facilities of all time, the project at CERN is the work of a collaboration of over 10,000 scientists from over 100 countries.
It has been a busy 5 years at CERN. The collider took 10 years to build, from 1998 to 2008 and it was first activated on the 10th of September 2008. The huge piece of equipment is designed to “speed up and increase the energy of a beam of particles by generating electric fields that accelerate the particles, and magnetic fields that steer and focus them. ”It will now be turned off for maintenance until 2015.
The 27 kilometre tunnel under Geneva which also crosses into and under France was originally part of a big controversy due to fears that the colliding particles would cause a black hole to form in the tunnel, which needless to say wouldn’t be the best start to the week.
Since it first opened, it has had its problems but also huge successes; just 9 days after it first went live, a broken electrical connection meant that experimenting had to stop until the several tons of helium gas that exploded out needed to be contained and the connection fixed -14 months later…
It wasn’t until the 30th of March 2010 that the first particles were successfully collided, between two 3.5 TeV (Tera-electron Volt, for the non-savvy) beams. This not only set the world record for the man made particle acceleration with the highest energy but also allowed scientists at CERN to start their research programme as it was originally planned.
Through this, the scientists were able to achieve ground breaking results at CERN. Last year the previously theorised but never proven Higgs Bosen was announced at a conference in July, the particle was finally discovered! Affectionately nicknamed ‘the god particle’ by the mass media as it is said to hold the key to understanding how the universe works, CERN is pretty sure that they have finally had that ‘eureka’ moment. In fact they are “5.9-sigma levels of certainty” sure that they have.. in laymen’s terms (ie terms that I can understand). That means there is a one-in-300 million chance that the Higgs does not exist. ”
While scientists usually wait until they reach level 6 on the sigma scale before it is declared as a success… well, one in 300 million seems like pretty good odds.
If in fact the Higgs Boson particle has been discovered it will mean a huge leap forward in the modern day understanding of the universe, the “physicists’ framework for understanding the particles that make up the universe and the forces that govern them.”
Hopes are, that after the 2 year period for a cool down and maintenance, scientists will be able to continue looking in to this new amazing particle. So never fear, the collider will be back and better than before, with scientists hoping to increase the speed of the particle acceleration from 8TeV to the the 14TeV that it was designed for.
Want to know more about how it all works? Just because the collider is taking a nap doesn’t mean that you can’t pop in to the CERN museum in Meyrin. Just hop off the 18 tram at the CERN stop and have a look inside the huge metal sphere to your right opposite the main entrance to CERN.