Large Hadron Collider is back with a big, big bang

3 Jun 2015

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Scientists in Geneva have put the finishing touches on the Large Hadron Collider’s (LHC) first “physics collisions” for two years, with a remarkably higher force of energy this time.

Operating at ‘just’ eight trillion electron volts (TeV) in its first iteration, LHC just finished tuning the force in for its official, non-test 13 TeV collision.

The LHC spent several years investigating the results of smashing particles together at frightening speed, with its 27km-long ring, situated underground on the border between France and Switzerland.

It’s an incredibly expensive and valuable physics project, basically searching for dark matter, which is that thing in space that nobody knows much about.

Scientists believe it makes up pretty much everything around us, but we can’t see it yet. Unsuccessful in the search so far, LHC’s findings have still proved crucial in furthering our knowledge of physics.

View of an open LHC interconnection, via M Brice/CERN

View of an open LHC interconnection, via M Brice/CERN

During the first run of the LHC, the ATLAS and CMS experiments announced the discovery of the so-called Higgs boson, which was the last piece of the puzzle known as the Standard Model, a theory that describes the fundamental particles from which everything visible in the universe is made, along with the interactions at work between them.

In truth, no one knows what to expect from these new collisions, as its never even nearly been done before. And, considering the team are trying to recreate our universe’s ‘Big Bang’ – to a much smaller scale – it’s understandable that everyone’s going into this a bit blind.

But now that the LHC is up and running again, CERN, the group operating the device, can start retrieving data once more.

One of the LHC operators, Laurette Ponce, analyses the many screens of data that physicists use to monitor and operate the machine, via M.Brice/CERN

One of the LHC operators, Laurette Ponce, analyses the many screens of data that physicists use to monitor and operate the machine, via M.Brice/CERN

“The first three-year run of the LHC, which culminated with a major discovery in July 2012, was only the start of our journey. It is time for new physics,” said Rolf Heuer, CERN’s director general.

“We have seen the first data beginning to flow. Let’s see what they will reveal to us about how our universe works.”

While resting up for the past two years, the four large experiments, ALICE, ATLAS, CMS and LHCb, also went through an important programme of maintenance and improvements necessary to up the energy count.

“The collisions we are seeing today indicate that the work we have done in the past two years to prepare and improve our detector has been successful and marks the beginning of a new era of exploration of the secrets of nature,” said CMS spokesperson Tiziano Camporesi. “We can hardly express our excitement within the collaboration: this is especially true for the youngest colleagues.”

There’s a wonderful array of media available, with a live blog, video stream and Twitter coverage for the day that’s in it.

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Gordon Hunt is a journalist at Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com