Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hey, We're Not Dead

In true nerd fashion, folks here celebrated the Large Hadron Collider's world premeire the only way we knew how, with a proton beam ignition party.

After staying up all night and witnessing (in real-time) the first particle beam sucessfully make its way around the 17-mile loop of accelerator, there we sat as the sun came up, in our pjs, amid remnants of mimosas, donuts, bagels, waffles, chocolate chips and whipped cream, when we realized, hey, we weren't dead! Shortly followed by, hey, the LHC works! A few of us lost bets on that one.

In any case, a night of sing-a-longs, gorging on food and drink, and sporadic chants of "CMS and Atlas are one of a kind, they're looking for whatever particles they can find" was fitting tribute to a historic and exciting event.

CERN scientists shot two beams of protons in one direction around the LHC, a ring-like tunnel running under the French-Swiss border containing over 1,600 superconducting magnets.

The magnets allow scientists to steer the proton beam around the ring like a giant video game. Of course, since the beam is zipping around at nearly the speed of light, controlling it is easier said than done.

Since the beams were fired in one direction, no collisions occured. But over the next few weeks, scientists will steer two proton beams traveling in opposite directions around the collider.

The beams will smash together and create new particles that haven't existed since start the of universe, the Big Bang.