Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Well, We're Still Here. For Now. : LHC particle-punisher in record 7 TeV hypercollisions

I love reading about this thing. Here are live webcam links: http://www.lhcfeed.com/

Earth apparently still here: Tinfoilers omelette-visaged

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It's official: as this is written, the most powerful particle collisions ever achieved by the human race are taking place inside the great subterranean detector caverns of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

An initial hiccup this morning saw an overly-jumpy automatic protection system quench a magnet and dump one of the beams, but boffins at the colossal 27-km machine's controls fought back to re-establish a ring of lightspeed 3.5 tera-electron-volt (TeV) protons in the affected magno-doughnut in time for lunch.

Shortly after 12:00 UK time, with both beams up and running at 3.5 TeV - several times any previous collision energies achieved - controls were cautiously tweaked to cross the two proton streams inside the detector arrays. Jubilant boffins packing the several control rooms involved cheered and clapped as the human race's first 7 TeV collisions appeared on the screens.

Tinfoilclad doom prophets around the world - fearing some kind of planet-imploding black hole mishap, planetary soupening or custardisation event etc - no doubt found it a trouser-moistening moment, but in fact as we write everything seems to be nominal at CERN. Evidently, as it turns out, all the world's top physicists were right and the tinfoilers were wrong.

Science fans can now look forward in the immediate future to a volley of excellent collision pictures from the various detectors. Thereafter, once the enormous supercomputing arrays of CERN get to crunching on the resulting stream of data, various promised scientific treats are to be expected: the Higgs boson (or "God particle") may make its appearance, or not, so settling the long-running feud between Professors Higgs and Hawking.

Top CERN boffin Sergio Bertolucci has also predicted the opening of some kind of portal into a bizarre extra-dimensional continuum of some kind; though sadly he expects this to be too small and shortlived to allow for any regrettable but of course excitingly newsworthy parallel-universe portal invasions or similar.

After a year+ of proton billiards at 3.5TeV, the LHC will be shut down for a year or so for upgrades necessary to let it run at its design maximum power of 7TeV, allowing truly outrageous 14 TeV collision energies.

Geneva looks set to be the party town of Europe tonight, as roistering boffins take to the streets to celebrate their triumph.

"We could not contain the joy," reported a CERN spokeswoman as riotous scenes took place in the control rooms earlier on. ®

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