I’ve been hearing a lot about the Large Hadron Collider lately, not entirely knowing what it is or what it’s supposed to do. I did a little research last night and learned quite a bit about this giant crazy science project.
The LHC is a particle accelerator that shoots beams of protons at each other at nearly the speed of light so they collide and explode into little subatomic particles like quarks and gluons. It doesn’t make a lot of sense unless you’re a physicist, but the thing’s incredible, nonetheless.
Basically, it’s a giant 27km long circular tunnel buried 100 metres underground, occupying parts of both France and Switzerland. There’s a bunch of pipes, huge superconducting magnets, giant sensors to detect the presence of dark matter and other crazy shit, and it’s all cooled by 96 tonnes of liquid helium to reach a temperature of -271 degrees Celsius, which is just two degrees above absolute zero.
The 27km long circular tunnel was created in the early 80′s, and the LHC construction began in 1996. To date, the project has cost about $6 billion! It’s a joint effort, with thousands of physicists, engineers and technicians from over 80 countries taking part in the construction, operation and analysis of the LHC.
Scientists hope the LHC will answer a lot of questions relating to matter, antimatter, gravity, extra dimensions and all kinds of stuff that sounds like it came out of a Star Trek episode. This has been a long time coming, and now that I know a bit more about it, I’m pretty excited. The LHC is the biggest scientific achievement of our time, just like the moon landing of my parents’ generation.
Here’s a few more quick facts about the LHC:
- at full power, the LHC will use about $100,000 worth of electricity per day
- the LHC will generate enough data to fill a CD every second
- protons will make 11,000 laps around the 27km tunnel every second
- each proton will cross the France/Switzerland border 44,000 times per second