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Collisions in France & Switzerland

Posted by: Dissol

Tagged in: Science , LHC , CERN



This has to fall in the Digital Section.  As the forerunner to the LHC is directly responsible for the Internet, and the latest experiments there may well lead to the next versions of the way that we can communicate with one another.


I am following the biggest Science experiment ever at CERN, where they have the massive LHC.  Basically this is a huge ring deep in the ground under France and Switzerland 27km in circumference.  It is kept just above absolute zero (at around -271°C).  Then tiny particles are accelerated first in smaller machines before being fed into the main ring, where their speed is increased to almost (99.9999991%) the speed of light.  Then another beam is introduced going in the opposite direction, and the particles are forced to collide in several different places around the ring where there are detectors.


The concept (which has been proved in other colliders) is to force tiny particles (hadrons) such as protons into one another to break them up.  The particles then break up into their constituent parts, and for a tiny amount of time, the detectors hope to be able to record the different pieces.


What is fascinating is that we do not know what they will discover, but we do know that they are looking in the right place.  Previous colliders have pointed to a magical amount of energy needed to yield results.  Every major collider has produced results, and this, the biggest by far, will yield yet more.  The energy (14TeV) of the collision is so massive as to be difficult to imagine.  At the speed that they are talking about, a tiny proton has the same momentum as a large aircraft carrier doing 30km/h…  And they have to place instruments at tiny clearances away from all this energy!  Amazing!!


So why?  Well, Newton, Einstein and many others have given us answers which work...most of the time.  But not quite.  Newton's work is still amazing - using calculations based on his work, NASA was able to accurately place man on the moon, and to work out how to get there, and for the different space vehicles to meet up in the right place, at the right time, doing the right speed.  Einstein noted the problems & managed to hugely improve on the work.  But not entirely.  The three main forces of nature - electromagnetism, and the strong & weak nuclear forces appear to come from one single point...they appear to be the same force...but only mathematically (due to work carried out by Higgs in the 1960's).  So they are testing his mathematical hypothesis.  That is connected to an amazing concept called super-symmetry - which posits that every particle has a symmetrical particle.  So they hope to see some of those.


It may explain what dark matter is.  We don't know.  We can (by the movement of stars, galaxies and the like) see that there is something other than what we can see (matter) acting upon them.  We can even map out where we think it is, and how much of it there is (much more than actual matter, it is thought).  Hopefully the LHC will answer that issue too.  Hopefully it will explain why gravity is such a weak force, and what actually causes gravity.


So just 2 days ago (at 13.02 0n 30/03/10 to be precise), operating at only half power (7TeV), they have caused their first collisions.  Already the LHC is producing results, and many papers have already been published.  I think we are on the cusp of potentially some huge scientific findings.  We may be able to answer all sorts of fundamental questions.


Of course, the anti-science, anti-knowledge crowd are asking where the benefits will be.  And the honest answer is that we don't know!!!  But there will be huge benefits to mankind, and all sorts of spin offs.  The figures are just amazing:






~ 27 km


Distance covered by beam in 10 hours

~ 10 billion km

a round trip to Neptune

Number of times a single proton travels around the ring each second

11 245


Speed of protons first entering the LHC

299 732 500 m/s

99.9998 % of the speed of light

Speed of protons when they collide

299 789 760 m/s

99.9999991 % of the speed of light

Collision temperature

~ 1016 °C

over one billion times hotter than the centre of the Sun

Operating temperature of the superconducting magnets

1,9 K (-271,3°C)

colder than outer

space (which is 2.7 K, or 270.5?C)

Amount of helium needed to cool down the facility

~ 120 t


Number of leak-tight pipe junctions necessary to keep the helium cold

~ 40 000


Volume of the insulating vacuum around the superconducting magnets

~ 9 000 m3

the volume of the nave of a cathedral

Pressure inside the beam vacuum pipe

~ 10-13 atm

one tenth of the pressure at the surface of the moon

Electrical power consumption

~ 120 MW

twice the power generated by the Rolls Royce 900 engine of an Airbus A380 when the plane is at cruising speed


Pasted from < Articles/1255150?ln=en>



Comments (5)Add Comment
written by dreamer, April 03, 2010
Your blog is just amazing. You are very smart. Apparently the cost was like 1 Billion $ or Euro or something. Expensive! There is a real possibility that they may open up a black hole with these experiments. Bit of a worry actually.
written by Dissol, April 03, 2010
They want to produce black holes - that is one of the main purposes. But don't worry: they will be tiny, tiny, and only last for a tinniest fraction of a second. Still worried? Don't be, tiny black holes are made every day with much more energy when the cosmic rays hit our atmosphere. But they collapse straight away.

The idea is to produce the same conditions under one of the huge sensors, so scientists can see what happens. It is looking at what happens in the immediate moments after the big bang. How matter is produced...what the processes are. Looking at these tiny events, and matter on the most miniscule level should give us useful answers.

Not sure about the very smart comment...just very interested...and very happy that anyone can find out about all this wonderful science through the internet.
written by dreamer, April 03, 2010
No I think you very smart. Do you have science qualification?
written by Dissol, April 03, 2010
I do have both BSc and and MSc, in unrelated topics, but neither in Physics!! I am hoping to start on a doctorate research at some stage next year. But the only reason I happen to spend time researching is because I am a wheelchair user with knackered shoulders, which means that I am not fit to do much else other than read & research!! I have to admit, that I am certainly not smart; but just very interested. After having read Hawking's brilliant "A brief history of time", I have also read his "The Universe in a Nutshell", both of which I would highly recommend to anyone interested. Although I have to admit, that some chapters had to be re-read more than once, to be able to fully comprehend the science involved.

We are living during a really esciting period, and it looks like some huge answers are going to be found shortly...
written by dreamer, April 04, 2010
So what did you do your studies in?

I'm sure that wheelchair will not stop you from achieving your dreams.smilies/smiley.gif

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