What is…the Large Hadron Collider?

Courtesy of CERN

What is the Large Hadron Collider? You may have heard about it in the news or on the internet. You may even of heard that  it would produce microscopic black holes that would engulf and destroy the entire. The ultimate doomsday weapon. Science fiction made real.

Be comforted and know that the LHC is not a black hole generator.The Large Hadron Collider (LHC)  is the largest and most powerful particle accelerator in the world and was built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).  It consists of a 27 kilometer, or 16.777 mile, ring of magnets that smashes two proton beams at 99.9999991% the speed of light. These proton beams reside in two separate tubes that are kept at  a vacuum like that in space. The super magnets that guide the proton beams are built from coiled electrical cable that are supercooled to 271.3 C, near the absolute zero of 273.15 C. Additionally, there are dipole magnets that bend the proton beams and quadrupole magnets that focus the beams. The protons collide with an energy of 14 teraelectronvolts in a space that is a thousand billion times smaller than a dust speck. By the stimulation of an environment where there is such a concentration of energy in a microscopic area of space, the LHC recreates a similar environment to the universe right after the occurrence of the Big Bang.

This compression of energy is the cause for the black hole scare as black holes are created from the collapse of a dying star into a small area of space. However, scientists at CERN have stated that it would be impossible for the manifestation of black holes to  occur in the LHC and even if they did, those black holes would collapse almost immediately as there wouldn’t be enough matter to sustain the black hole.

So it may not potentially destroy the world but it still is a marvelous example of current science. The greatest discovery yet at the LHC is a particle that scientists believe to be the Higgs Boson.  According to the Standard Model, a major theory of how the universe functions, the Higgs Boson is what allows objects throughout the universe to have mass. Anything that has mass is theorized to have mass because of the Higgs Boson. For this discovery, Francois Englert and Peter W. Higgs were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2013.

Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait for more findings from the LHC.  It has been shutdown for repairs and upgrades until 2015 but don’t fear, there is still over 88.8 petabytes, or 93,113,570 gigabytes, of data to look over.

Sources:

http://press.web.cern.ch/backgrounders/safety-lhc

http://home.web.cern.ch/topics/large-hadron-collider

http://home.web.cern.ch/about/engineering/vacuum-empty-interplanetary-space

http://cosmiclog.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/02/14/16964634-large-hadron-collider-shuts-down-to-prepare-for-bigger-bangs-in-2015?lite=

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One thought on “What is…the Large Hadron Collider?

  1. Pingback: What Would Happen if You Stuck Your Head in the Large Hadron Colliders Particle Beam? | pundit from another planet

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