Documenting the Coming Singularity

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Collider and You - Why it Matters

Time - 3.3.10 (by Eben Harrell)

A engineer faces the magnet core of the world's largest superconducting solenoid magnet (CMS, Compact Muon Solenoid), one of the experiments preparing to take data at European Organization for Nuclear Research's Large Hadron Collider. FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP / Getty Images.

The ATLAS particle detector at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) outside Geneva is 150 feet long, 82 feet high, weighs 7,000 tons and contains enough cable and wiring to wrap around Earth's equator seven times. It's a mammoth machine, designed for the delightful purpose of detecting particles so tiny you can fit hundreds of billions of them into a beam narrower than a human hair.

Out on the cusp of human knowledge, particle physics can seem very esoteric indeed. But the LHC's findings may have implications that go beyond pure science.

ATLAS occupies just one small corner of the strange and wonderful world that is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) — the circular 14-mile underground particle accelerator that promises scientists untold insights into the mysteries of the cosmos. More than 25 years in the planning, with a price tag of around $10 billion, the LHC officially — finally — began smashing protons together on March 30. The goal: to answer the most fundamental questions about how the universe works.

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