CERN Particle Accelerator Succeeds in Causing Protons to Collide at Unprecedented Energy
By Dialogo March 31, 2010Scientists have achieved, for the first time, the collision of proton beams at an energy of seven TeV (tera-electronvolts) in the large accelerator built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), in a key step toward unveiling the mysteries of our universe’s creation. This result, which was obtained after two failed attempts, opens the doors to a new phase of modern physics, since it will make it possible to find answers to numerous questions about the universe and matter, according to CERN scientists. A few minutes after 1 p.m. local time (11 a.m. GMT), the four giant detectors of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) - ATLAS, ALICE, CMS, and LHCb, located at different points along the accelerator’s twenty-seven-kilometer-long tunnel - began to register the impacts of the particle beams traveling in opposite directions. CERN’s director-general, Rolf Heuer, expressed his great happiness and excitement about what he described as “the beginning of a new era for modern physics,” speaking by videoconference from Japan, where he is currently visiting. “With this experiment, we’re opening a window for obtaining new knowledge of the universe and of the microcosm, although this won’t be immediate,” the director-general indicated. This new experiment’s short- to medium-term objective is, over two years, “to cause the collision of around 2,800 beams in each direction, in order to create millions of impacts, after which there will be a year’s technical downtime,” scientist Michael Barnett explained. Seven TeV is half of the accelerator’s design energy, and only after this long pause, once the entire system has been gone over down to the smallest detail, will the attempt be made to reach fourteen TeV, an energy even closer to that of the creation of the universe.