Large and in Charge

Physics & Math / by Greg Boustead /

Particles are accelerated to unprecedented speeds at CERN's Large Hadron Collider with ultimate hopes of uncovering the universe's darkest secrets.

Today is Beam Day. At 10:28 Central European Time, scientists at the Large Hadron Collider shot subatomic particles the entire length of its 17-mile looping tunnel deep beneath the Franco-Swiss border for the first time. Although neither the theoretical “God particle” nor a planet-eating black hole was produced, today marks successful early stages of what is ostensibly the world’s largest science experiment.

Procedural in practice, today’s lap around the track nevertheless holds huge implications for future illumination of everything from the origin of the universe to the production of dark matter. Eventually, CERN scientists hope to confirm — or potentially invalidate — fundamental assumptions about the physical world. By smashing tiny bits of matter together from opposite sides of this massive complex, they expect to glean a bounty of data from the resulting debris. Of particular interest is the potential observation of the sensationally termed “God particle,” more accurately referred to as the Higgs boson: a hypothetical elementary particle predicted to exist by modern physics that could help explain how matter was created.

For perspective on this historical day, we look back at Seed’s coverage of the Large Hadron Collider in the run-up to its activation.

Audio Slideshow: The Large Hadron Collider and CERN
Explore the cavernous site while listening to firsthand insight from theorist Luis Alvarez-Gaume and experimentalist Ulrich Fuchs.

Discovery for the Sake of Discovery
From the new particle accelerator at CERN may emerge answers to the most fundamental questions of the universe.

Why a Large Hadron Collider?
Seed asks some of the greatest physicists alive what we hope to learn from the LHC.

CERN by the Numbers
How big is this Large Hadron Collider, really?

Why the US Should Spring for a New Particle Accelerator
The US must develop a compelling bid to host the International Linear Collider in order to safeguard American science.

Originally published September 10, 2008

Tags engineering innovation lhc scale

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