Particle accelerator fires up

THE world's most powerful atom-smasher, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), began operations just after 5.30pm AEST in a mission to pierce the greatest secrets of the physical universe.

The first proton beam was injected into the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a massive project that took nearly 20 years to complete and ranks as the most complex and one of the most costliest scientific experiment ever attempted.

"After the beam is injected, it takes about five seconds for the acquisition of the data,'' said LHC project leader Lyn Evans.

Shortly afterwards, a telltale flash on control screens confirmed the injection.

Scientists at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) are aiming to re-enact the conditions of the "Big Bang" that created the universe.

Experiments in the Large Hadron Collider, a $US9 billion ($11bn) accelerator built underneath the Swiss-French border, could unlock the remaining secrets of particle physics and answer questions about the universe and its origins.

"There are two emotions, the pleasure of completing a great task and the hope of great discoveries ahead of us," said CERN Director General Robert Aymar.

The giant accelerator's first task is to send a particle beam in one direction around its 27km circumference, and then one in the other direction to test if the path is clear.

In the coming weeks beams will be sent in both directions simultaneously to create high-speed collisions.

Scientists around the world are eagerly anticipating data on those minuscule crashes. One possibility is that they will cause the creation of matter - proving correct the theory that there exists a "Higgs Boson" that gives matter its mass.

Doomsday writers have also fanned fears that the experiment could create anti-matter, or black holes, spurring unprecedented public interest in particle physics ahead of the machine's start-up.

CERN has insisted that such concerns are unfounded and that the Large Hadron Collider is safe.

Now how many of you think we are going to get eatten up by a black hole our worse?

Uploaded 09/10/2008
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