Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Large Hadron Collider

At last, the LHC at CERN has produced its first high energy proton collisions and created a black hole which swallowed the Earth. Those damn scientists and their disregard for the existence of matter!

Or maybe the scientist at CERN are doing real cutting-edge science to the benefit of everyone?

There's an official LHC/CERN webcast up here that you might catch while they are discussing this new event.

Collisions at LHC
Today, the LHC produced its first 7 TeV collision (2 proton beams at 3.5 TeV each) after the long break in operations following the incident in September 2008, which shut down the accelerator for some time.

7 TeV is not an easy to understand concept, but suffice to say that an eV (electron volt) is a very small unit of energy (around 1.6*10^-19 Joule) and T (for Tera) is 1000 billion of them.

The total energy for each beam is around 362 MJ, which is insane considering that the beams consist only of protons (around 10^11 of them).
362 MJ being released is equivalent to 78.7 kg of TNT being detonated (or a total of 157.4 kg of TNT for both beams).
All this energy is released in a collision of only 384.7 femtograms of matter (or 0.3847 thousandth of a billionth of a gram).
(edit: I've changed the mass as I just realised I forgot to multiply the mass of the beams by two)

Holy crap!
And this is only at half the original projected maximum energy levels (7 TeV per beam)!

Or put in another way:
The total energy in each beam at maximum energy is about 350 MJ, which is about as energetic as a 400 t train, like the French TGV, travelling at 150 km/h. This is enough energy to melt around 500 kg of copper. The total energy stored in the LHC magnets is some 30 times higher (11 GJ).

From this massive energy release, the scientists at CERN are hoping to see the formation of a lot of different exotic (and regular) particles.

Of course the most spoken about particle they are looking for is the Higgs boson. The importance of which is enormous as it is theorized to be the reason that all matter has mass. Mass is then "simply" a particles interaction with the Higgs boson and the Higgs field.

But of course that's not all they do at the LHC. You can read about he different experiments (and detectors) here.

This is going to be so cool. Now that LHC is up and running at close to full effect, we can begin looking forward to whatever they discover about the particles that make up our universe.

Learn more about the LHC
But that's not all they are doing at the LHC.
You can follow the official webcasts here or read an easy-to-understand description of the LHC (what it does, how and why) at the official public site here.

There's also an official FAQ for the LHC here.

And here are the official CERN photos from the LHC First Physics.

Here's a CNN article about the LHC, which also contains a simple explanation of what is being done and why.

I'll append to this post once I find more great sites with cool videos or explanations from the LHC.