CERN, home to the Large Hadron Collider


CERN: the European Organization for Nuclear Research, established in 1954, located north of Geneva, spanning the border between Switzerland and France with its 27-kilometer circle in a tunnel 100 meters underground, where protons travel its 27 kilometers at 99.99% the speed of light -- 11,000 times per SECOND, 24/7.

    The Globe, above, made of wood, but looking like a rusted golf ball, glows with ethereal energy when the sun goes down, and houses exhibits, displays and film showings.  In front, a blue replica of a section of the Hadron tunnel greets visitors as they begin their tours, which are best scheduled a month or two in advance, since they are only on two days of the week. The LHC below ground consists of 1200 of the blue cylinders and @8000 shorter ones.

Who would’ve thought that my SPANISH is what would’ve helped us get from this wrong tramway stop to the correct one?  The little girl is Luna. During the long time they stayed to help us, and missed their own trams, we managed to forget to get the other girls’ names.....

Up to 600,000 photos can be taken in 1 second of a proton collision.  Those photos are analyzed in the control rooms, trying to understand and possibly recreate the Big Bang.

The model above is a scale of 1 - 100.  The grey ends are the magnets, 8 of them, 1000 tons EACH. Liquid hydrogen and helium create a -471 degree temperature, needed to counteract the interior heat which is 10 times hotter than the sun’s interior. The tracking device is yellow, the orange is the calorimeter (measuring energy & speed), the blue is the muon = 1-3% debris caused in the collision. (At least, I THINK that’s what my notes say.....that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

I took the photos framed in red from inside these white “pods” in the golf-ball Globe’s exhibits.

This Asian scientist guide truly thought we could understand what he was telling us; I mean, he WAS using ENGLISH words, why wouldn’t we?

Antimatter CAN be created, but only for a nano-second; it CANNOT be saved or kept, let alone carried around as in Angels and Demons.

An interactive world surface that the kids loved.

    “The ANGELS AND DEMONS team indeed came to CERN to film, but none of the movie scenes was actually filmed on location. The control room the scientists are in at the very beginning is supposed to be the ATLAS control room.”  (WE got to see the real one....below and to the left.)

    “In the film, they make a little in-joke about the ALICE experiment in the opening scene ("Let's hope the heavy ion guys don't mess it up again" or something similar), which cracks CERN people up.” 

    The above information came from an email clarification that I received from the Cern internet site.

    CERN is home to the world’s biggest and most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider: a machine to accelerate two beams of particles in opposite directions to more than 99.9% the speed of light.  The tunnel was built in the 1980s for the previous accelerator, the Large Electron-Positron Collider. Smashing the beams together creates showers of particles for physicists to study.

    The European Organization for Nuclear Research was founded in 1954 and has become a prime example of international collaboration, with currently 20 Member States.  More than 10,000 scientists and engineers from around 500 academic institutes and industrial companies worldwide contribute to the LHC projects.  Equipment has been built in many European countries, as well as in Canada, India, Japan, Russia, and the US.

    Acting for its Member States, CERN has invested 6 billion Swiss Francs, to cover the accelerator, computing, manpower, and CERN’s contribution to the experiments.  However, the LHC is a world project, with other countries contributing about 10% of the material cost.

    The GRID of networking technology links tens of thousands of computers worldwide, creating a vast worldwide computing resource for the LHC experiments.  The experiments generate an enormous amount of data.  Each year the data would fill a stack of CDs 20 km tall.

    The LHC produces head-on collisions between two beams of particles of the same kind, either protons or lead ions.  The beams are created in CERN’s chain of accelerators and then injected in the LHC, where they travel through a vacuum comparable to outer space.  Superconducting magnets operating at extremely low temperatures guide the beams around the ring.  The energy stored in the magnets would be enough to melt 50 tons of copper. If the LHC used ordinary “warm” magnets instead of the superconductors cooled by liquid hydrogen and liquid helium, the ring would have to be at 120 km in circumference to achieve the same collision energy, and it would consume 40 times more electricity.

    Each beam will ultimately consist of nearly 3000 bunches of particles, each bunch containing as many as 100 billion particles.  The particles are so minute that the chance of any two colliding is very small.  When the bunches do cross, there will be only about 20 collisions among 200 billion particles.  However, bunches will cross about 30 million times per second, so the LHC will generate up to 600 million collisions per second.

    At near light-speed, a proton in the LHC makes 11,245 turns every second.  A beam might circulate for 10 hours, traveling more than 10 billion kilometres - far enough to get to the planet Neptune and back again.

    The LHC concentrates energy into a very small space.  Particle energies in the LHC are measured in tera-electronvolts (TeV).  One TeV is roughly the energy of a flying mosquito, but a proton is about a trillion times SMALLER than a mosquito.

    Each proton flying round the LHC will ultimately have an energy of 7 TeV, so when two protons collide, the collision energy will be 14 TeV.  Lead ions have many protons, and together, they give an even greater energy:1150 TeV.

    After reaching an energy of 0.45 TeV in CERN’s accelerator chain, the beams are injected into the LHC ring.  On each circuit, the beams receive an additional impulse from an electric field, until the desired 7 TeV. To control these beams at such high energies, some 1800 superconducting magnet systems are used.  These niobium-titanium magnets operate at a temperature of -271 C. The strength of a magnetic field is measure in units called tesla.  At maximum energy, the LHC operates at about 8 tesla, whereas “warm” magnets can only achieve a maximum of 2 tesla.

CERN is not an isolated laboratory, but rather a focus for an extensive community that now includes about 60 countries and about 8000 scientists. Although these scientists typically spend some time on the CERN site, they usually work at universities and national laboratories in their home countries. Good contact is clearly essential.

The basic idea of the WWW was to merge the technologies of personal computers, computer networking and hypertext into a powerful and easy to use global information system.

Today, over half of the world’s particle accelerators are used in medicine, and more and varied uses are being found for them all the time. The same is true for particle detector technology. In the 1970s, CERN played an important role in the emerging technology of positron emission tomography (PET), building prototype scanners in a collaboration with Geneva’s hospital. That tradition continues to this day, with crystal technology developed for LEP, coupled to electronics developed for the LHC, pointing the way to combined PET/MRI scanners.

Physicists hope that the LHC will help answer many of the most fundamental questions in physics: questions concerning the basic laws governing the interactions and forces among the elementary objects, the deep structure of space and time, especially regarding the intersection of quantum mechanics and general relativity, where current theories and knowledge are unclear or break down altogether. These issues include, at least:

  1. Is the Higgs mechanism for generating elementary particle masses via electroweak symmetry breaking indeed realised in nature? It is anticipated that the collider will either demonstrate or rule out the existence of the elusive Higgs boson(s), completing (or refuting) the Standard Model.

  2. Is supersymmetry, an extension of the Standard Model and Poincaré symmetry, realised in nature, implying that all known particles have supersymmetric partners?

  3. Are there extra dimensions, as predicted by various models inspired by string theory, and can we detect them?

  4. What is the nature of the Dark Matter which appears to account for 23% of the mass of the Universe?

March 2009: 20 years of the web

Twenty years ago this month, something happened at CERN that would change the world forever: Tim Berners-Lee handed a document to his supervisor Mike Sendall entitled "Information Management : a Proposal". "Vague, but exciting" is how Mike described it, and he gave Tim the nod to take his proposal forward. The following year, the World Wide Web was born. This week, it's a pleasure and an honour for us to welcome the Web's inventor back to CERN to mark this special anniversary at the place the Web was born, in Cern, Switzerland.

Tim Berners-Lee, a scientist at CERN, invented the World Wide Web (WWW) in 1989. The Web was originally conceived and developed to meet the demand for automatic information sharing between scientists working in different universities and institutes all over the world.