Friday, November 27, 2009

LHC restarts!

Probably the most exciting thing happening now in Science, is the restart of the Large Hadron Collider (commonly referred to as the LHC)! A massive explosion required about a year to fix, and to re-engineer to try and prevent such a problem happening again - those events, and the current status are documented.

The LHC is an enormous apparatus that is mostly a ring 27 kilometres in circumference half in France and half in Switzerland, designed to smash together the nuclei of atoms to produce as yet undetected elementary particles.

The ring has 8 major experimental stations such as the CMS and ATLAS experiments, that are 'sort of' general purpose detectors with different characteristics, each weighing over ten thousand tonnes.

The Director of the LHC, Steve Myers, paid tribute to the huge amount of dedicated team work involved.

They are starting at relatively low energies, as they need to carefully bring the machine up to its design level. So at the moment they can only see the types of particle they already know about.

At full strength they hope to detect the particle that a lot of physicists think is responsible for why other particles, such as the proton and electron have mass. This particle is called the Higgs Boson, named after Peter Higgs. If they don't find it, and can demonstrate it does not exist at the energies that the LHC can reach, then this is also interesting as it will lead to new physics.

Apart from the Higgs Boson
, there is a potential doubling of the number of particles needed to explain the world according to the Super Symmetric Theory (affectionately known as SUSY), these are expected to discovered by the LHC. Plus there is the 'expected unexpected' discoveries.

Some good URL's to look at are:

Pretty pictures of the LHC
Physicists blogging
Official LHC website
Unofficial LHC webisite
LHC on Twitter
Collision events as they happen at the CMS experiment