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The large hadron collider

September 8, 2008

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I’ve been very interested – even a bit excited – in the development of this experimental machine which hopes to find (or not) the Higgs boson and hence prove (or not) how gravity fits into the modified “theory of everything” that Einstein spent so much effort on.

As a physicist, I can actually understand a lot of the physics involved. My wife and I have watched several TV documentaries on it and were looking forward to some exciting news later this week when it springs into action.

Until I Googled and found this article.

Our excitement waned on reading:

“Come 10 September, the first protons will be whipped up to nearly the speed of light through a chain of smaller accelerators on the CERN site. Then they will be injected into one of the LHC’s two adjacent beam-pipes at an energy of 0.45 trillion electron volts (TeV).”

“…the operations team will adjust the magnets and try again with a fresh beam until they have systematically threaded the protons around the entire machine. That could take from a few hours to a few days with a crew working around the clock. Then, the team will have to do the same for the beam in the other direction.”

“The next challenge will be to get the beams in a stable orbit for several hours at a time. Only then can CERN contemplate ramping up the energy to 5 TeV and finally bringing the counter-rotating beams head on at a collision energy of 10 TeV.
If luck is on their side, that should take place around the time of the official LHC inauguration on 21 October. In early 2009, the protons are set to collide at the full energy of 14 TeV.”

“it will likely take a year for researchers on the LHC’s four experiments to understand their cathedral-scale detectors well enough to make a discovery.”

and finally:

“Finding the Higgs boson, which would solve the mystery of where mass comes from, could take two to three years.”

So don’t hold your breath, folks.

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