Looks like the Swiss are at it again, what with their knives, conventions and cheeses, they’ve also officially restarted LHC operations yesterday, running with much greater energy than before! For those of you who don’t know what the LHC is, it stands for Large Hadron Collider, and it accelerates beams of protons to immense energy and smashes them together, in order to simulate conditions in the early universe. It was laying dormant for nigh on 2 years, with upgrades and usual maintenance being conducted, with initial tests running in late May, achieving a record breaking 12 teraelectronvolts (TeV) compared to the 8 before shutdown. To put it into perspective, one TeV is the energy motion of a flying mosquito, but packed into the space of a trillion times smaller than a mosquito, or a hummingbird that just hit a rail of coke.
“The LHC is now producing collisions with 60% higher energy than during the previous run between March 2010 and March 2013, when we discovered the Higgs boson,” said Beate Heinemann, a UC Berkeley professor of physics, senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Library and deputy spokesperson for the ATLAS collaboration, which co-discovered the Higgs Boson in 2012, with rival CMS group. “A Higher energy, better detector and increased intensity give us high hopes that we might find again new fundamental particles or laws of physics, something that was just beyond the capabilities of the first run.”
The Higgs discovery resulted in a 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics to Peter Higgs and Francois Englert, the people who first proposed the existence of the particle that fives mass to every other elementary particle.
“The increased energy available in the current run of the LHC provides new opportunities to discover completely unexpected phenomena,” said ATLAS member Marjorie Shapiro, a UC Berkeley professor of physics and Berkeley Lab senior scientist.
The tests allowed scientist to set up systems to protect the machine and detectors from particles that stray from the edges of the beam. So we can manipulate physics, in order to save a machine from itself, but scientists can’t save me from myself when faced with a decision of running 5k or eating a chocolate cake? That’s not fair… These tests were important part of the process that allowed the experiments fully today and begin collecting data from proton beams colliding inside complex detectors.
“We are looking, for instance, for dark matter, supersymmetry and extra dimensions of space, and in all cases the increased energy dramatically improves our chance to see it,” Heinemann said.
The joint UC Berkeley/LBNL ATLAS group consists of about 40 people, including 10 graduate student. About 10 undergrads also contribute to the research each year. The LHC and ATLAS experiments are located at the European Center for Nuclear Research CERN in Geneva.
I for one would be a happy guy if I got paid (and fame) for smashing energy together at high speeds, well, anything for that matter but alas I can’t, so I’ll just stick to writing about scientists doing that instead.