September 10 – Large Hadron Collider – Powered Up!

Posted on September 10, 2016

The largest science experiment in history –and the largest machine ever built – powered up for the first time on this date in 2008!

Unfortunately, testing had to be delayed for 14 months because of what is called a “magnet quench” event.

You see, an electromagnet is a kind of magnet in which a magnetic field is created by an electric current. It's a very useful sort of magnet, because of course the magnetic force can be turned on and off with a switch!

And a superconducting magnet is an electromagnet made from coils of superconducting wire.

Now, a magnet quench happens when part of the superconducting coil shuts off because the magnetic field is too large (usually), and there is heat, sometimes high voltages, or other disastrous effects that can damage machinery and electronics.

When that happened to the Large Hadron Collider in 2008, some of the superconducting magnets were damaged and had to be replaced.

Okay...but what IS the Large Hadron Collider?

Aside from being the largest, most complex experimental facility ever built, and the largest machine in the world, the Large Hadron Collider is also the world's most powerful particle collider.

Ten THOUSAND scientists and engineers from over 100 countries collaborated on the design and construction of the machine, which lies in a circular tunnel 17 miles (27 km) in circumference beneath the border between France and Switzerland.

It's all about creating and detecting debris
from high-speed collisions of the very small...
Like other particle colliders, the LHC accelerates beams of particles so that they run into one another, head-on, in high-speed collisions. This is done in order to transform the particles into other particles. It's all about understanding physics – what matter is made of, the laws of nature, how matter can convert into energy, the world of stuff smaller than atoms!

So now that you understand the “large” and the “collider” parts of the Large Hadron Collider, what about the “hadron” part?

Hadrons are particles that are made up of other, smaller particles that are held together by what physicists call the “strong force.”

Examples of hadrons are protons and neutrons, which are made of three quarks each. Some hadrons are made of only one quark; pions are an example. Some exotic hadrons are made of more than three quarks.

Google helped to celebrate the LHC!

  • Watch Brian Cox explain a few aspects of the LHC. 

  • And here is Michio Kaku explaining why the largest machine ever built by humans is just a “pea shooter” compared to Mother Nature's universe! 

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