Large Hadron Collider, super collider
Keystone, Martial Trezzini/AP
A portion of the Large Hadron Collider

Super Collider to Relaunch at Half-Speed in November

August 11, 2009 12:00 PM
by Denis Cummings
The Large Hadron Collider, designed to give scientists the ability to determine how matter was created after the Big Bang, is scheduled to be restarted in mid-November, 14 months after it was shut down.

Large Hadron Collider to Be Relaunched at Half-Speed

The Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator, will be restarted at half-speed in mid-November, announced officials at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). The LHC has not been running since Sept. 19, when a helium leak forced scientists to shut it down just nine days after it was launched.

The first test results will be available a few weeks after the relaunch, but scientists say that the LHC will not be running at full capacity until 2011, following a scheduled maintenance period in the winter of 2010-2011.

Background: The Large Hadron Collider

The $10 billion Large Hadron Collider was designed to simulate the universe milliseconds after the Big Bang. Scientists hope that they will be able to determine what the early universe was made of, why matter overcame antimatter and where dark matter exists. They are also looking to prove the existence of the Higgs boson, which explains why particles have mass.

The LHC is an underground complex made up of several large cathedral-sized buildings housing high-powered magnets. The magnets, which will be cooled to within two degrees Kelvin of absolute zero, shoot protons at 99.99-percent of the speed of light through a 17-mile circular tunnel lined with computers that will detect and analyze each particle collision.

There are several structures built along the tunnel that perform specific calculations, the most significant of which are A Large Ion Collider Experiment (ALICE), A Toroidal LHC ApparatuS (ATLAS) and Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS). ALICE will examine the quark–gluon plasma that existed after the Big Bang, while ATLAS and CMS will try to detect dark matter, extra dimensions and the Higgs boson.

Opinion & Analysis: What will scientists find?

There are many long-standing questions of particle physics that scientists at CERN hope to answer with the LHC, including those dealing with antimatter, extra dimensions and black holes.

The most-anticipated possible discovery is the Higgs boson, a theoretical particle that explains how mass is formed. The so-called “God Particle,” first theorized more than 40 years ago by University of Edinburgh physicist Peter Higgs, is the only particle predicted by the Standard Model that has not yet been discovered.

“The field prevails throughout the cosmos: any particles that interact with it are given a mass via the Higgs boson. The more they interact, the heavier they become, whereas particles that never interact are left with no mass at all,” explains CERN. “This idea provided a satisfactory solution and fitted well with established theories and phenomena. The problem is that no one has ever observed the Higgs boson in an experiment to confirm the theory.”

Evidence of the Higgs boson could be discovered soon by the Tevatron accelerator in the Chicago-based Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. However, the Tevatron is not powerful enough to confirm the existence of the Higgs; the LHC would be needed to do so.

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