Thursday, September 11, 2008

Atom-smasher passes Test No 1


From TODAY, World
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 11, 2008

HISTORIC DAY
In time, the collider will replicate ‘Big Bang’ conditions

PICTURE: The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is designed to accelerate sub-atomic particles to nearly the speed of light and then smash them together. AFP

GENEVA — Particle physicists were jubilant yesterday after the long-awaited startup of a megamachine designed to expose secrets of the cosmos passed its first test with flying colours.

Cheers, applause and the pop of a champagne cork — rather than the cataclysmic suck of a black hole, as doomsayers had feared — marked the breakthrough at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern). Mr Robert Aymar, the organisation’s director general, hailed it as a “historic day” for Cern and mankind’s thirst for knowledge.

Built in a tunnel 100m below ground in a complex straddling the French-Swiss border, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is designed to accelerate sub-atomic particles to nearly the speed of light and then smash them together.

The collisions will briefly stoke temperatures 100,000 times hotter than the Sun, fleetingly replicating conditions which prevailed in split-seconds after the “Big Bang” that created the Universe 13.7 billion years ago. In this seething primordial soup, novel particles may lurk. Discovering them could resolve mysteries clouding our understanding of how matter is constituted and came into being, scientists say.

It has required nearly two decades, six billion Swiss francs ($7.8 billion) and 5,000 scientists, engineers and technicians from nearly three dozen countries to bring the LHC to fruition.

Yesterday’s operation began a long and cautious commissioning process, which weeks from now when all is ready, will whizz two parallel beams, one clockwise and the other anticlockwise, around the 27km ring-shaped tunnel.

- AFP
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