Large Hadron Collider Celebrated its 10th Birthday

Large Hadron Collider Celebrated its 10th Birthday

The most complex experimental facility of the world has made some awesome discoveries in the first 10 years of its operation.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the most powerful particle collider and the largest machine in the world which has a circumference of 27 kilometers. It lies at a depth of 175 meters beneath the France-Switzerland border near Geneva. The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) built this amazing machine over a period of 10 years (1998-2008). Scientists from more than 100 countries contributed to its construction. 10th September 2008 was the day when a beam of protons was shot, for the first time, on the world’s largest atom smasher.

The months building up to this historic experiment were packed with stories of fear and destruction. According to those tales, the LHC would make a massive black hole which would destroy our planet. Although media did help in dispelling these claims, the excitement associated with this story was too good to ignore. Consequently, most of the responsible media outlets (broadcast, print, or online) couldn’t resist the temptation and did come up with a version of it. Despite all the criticism, the team of researchers at the CERN went on with their work and invited the press to see the inaugural beam of the LHC. The speculations attached with this particle accelerator ensured that the media did show up in a big way. A lot of international media outlets like CNN, BBC, and Reuters were there to cover this outstanding achievement in the field of Particle Physics.

This was not an ideal moment for public relations even if we eliminate the theory of black hole. Brand-new accelerators are quite fastidious and given the size of the LHC, there was nothing riskier than this move. The presence of thousands of magnets alongside tens of thousands of power supplies, in addition to other monitoring electronics, means that the slightest mishap can delay the successful circulation of the beam for days or even weeks. Initially, things didn’t go according to plan as a number of attempts failed due to rebellious power supplies. However, all the hard work of the accelerator operators paid when they successfully threaded a very low-intensity beam of protons throughout the complex. This technical achievement was revealed to the world as it happened.

The primary goal of the LHC as stated by the CERN was to complete the Standard Model of Particle Physics by discovering the Higgs Boson. Having said that, researchers want to achieve quite a lot more with this powerful particle collider. They are hoping to find the family of new particles, which was predicted by the supersymmetric theories, in order to answer some unsolved riddles of the universe. Some people think that the LHC can only collide proton beams but that is not true. There are 7 detectors around the 4 crossing points of the collider and each of them is designed for a special kind of research. For instance, lead-lead collisions were performed in 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2015 while proton-lead collisions took place in 2013 and 2016.

Don Lincoln, the Author of “The Large Hadron Collider: The Extraordinary Story of the Higgs Boson and Other Stuff That Will Blow Your Mind”, mentioned that the accomplishment of 10th September was relatively modest in comparison to the potential of the LHC. He told the world that the machine worked for the lowest energy it was built for. Similarly, focusing was also considered a future goal at that time. Despite all that, he acknowledged that it was certainly the first step towards the desired outcome.

He also talked about 19th March 2010 when the technicians at the CERN finally made LHC the most powerful accelerator of the world. He mentioned that he was there at CERN when a beam was accelerated to an energy 3.5 times higher than the ‘Fermilab Tevatron’, the previous world recorder holder. Since then, the graph of the LHC has only gone up with more than 2,000 papers to its credit. The discovery of the Higgs Boson came in 2012 which was broadcasted to almost a billion viewers on over a thousand channels.

Although the future of the LHC seems quite bright, it will be paused for 2 years (for sake of upgrades and refurbishment) at the end of this year. It will commence its operations again in the spring of 2021 with much-improved detectors. According to experts, we will be able to extract only 3% of the data that will be recorded over the lifetime of the facility, by the end of 2018. Right now, we are not sure about the scientific truths it will reveal but whatever it will be, it will be glorious.

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