The large hadron* collider (LHC) is due to begin operation this month in Geneva, Switzerland. Located on the Swiss-French border at the world's largest particle physics laboratory named the European Organization for Nuclear Research (abbreviated to CERN, the out-dated acronym is still used today but initially it stood for European Council for Nuclear Research), the LHC was built in a circular tunnel with a circumference of 27 km and is situated 50-175 m underground. Loosely speaking, the LHC is a particle accelerator or an atom smasher. In layman’s terms, the LHC consists of two beams of particles which travel in opposite directions in a vacuum and are accelerated close to 99.99% of speed of light at high energies. The orbits of these particles are controlled by strong magnetic fields created by 9300 magnets (to be precise) which are cooled to temperatures as low as -271 degrees Celsius. The magnets tightly control the orbits of the particle beams right up to collision which takes place at four places (particle detectors) around the accelerator ring. It is estimated that approximately 600 million collisions will take place every second! The LHC was designed to answer some of the fundamental and unresolved questions in particle physics such as the origin and composition of mass; the composition of dark matter and dark energy; what happened immediately after the big bang; and the existence of other dimensions.
*A hadron is a strongly interacting subatomic particle
7 years ago