Get Adobe Flash player

World’s greatest atom-smasher starts operations

The world's most powerful atom-smasher began operations last wee in a mission to pierce the greatest secrets of the physical Universe, scientists said.
Just after 0730 GMT, 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 costliest scientific experiments 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.
The LHC has cost six billion Swiss francs (3.76 billion euros, 5.46 billion dollars) to build.
The mission aims at resolving some of the toughest enigmas in physics: why particles have mass; an explanation for the strange "dark matter" and "dark energy" that account for 96 percent of the cosmos; and whether other dimensions exist in parallel to our own.
In a ring-shaped tunnel deep beneath the Franco-Swiss border, parallel beams of protons will be accelerated to nearly the speed of light.
Superconducting magnets will then steer the beams so that strings of protons smash together in four huge laboratories, fleetingly replicating the conditions that prevailed at the "Big Bang" that created the Universe 13.7 billion years ago.
Arrays of detectors will trace the sub-atomic rubble spewed out from the collision, looking for signatures of novel particles.
Wednesday's startup marks the start of a long and cautious commissioning process to check equipment and operational procedures.
The first batch of protons was being halted, sector by sector, in the tunnel in order to verify that monitoring systems were working properly.
The first collisions are likely to start in several weeks, scientists said.