First beam at the Large Hadron Collider

The first proton beam was successfully steered around the 17 miles of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Switzerland at 10.28 a.m. European Central Time this morning. For a timeline of today’s events, go here.

This is the first step in starting up the $8 billion machine, described as the largest science experiment ever. Eventually, the machine will run two proton beams in opposite directions, setting off collisions which spit out new particles. Researchers hope to find the long-predicted Higgs Boson, which would complete the Standard Model of Particle Physics. Predicted in the 1960s, the Higgs particle allows other particles to have mass.

Apart from the Higgs boson, the collider should also bring confirmation of a theory called Supersymmetry or “suzy,” which explains some other problems with the Standard Model. They may even find evidence of extra dimensions beyond the four we inhabit.

An estimated 10,000 scientists from around the world have worked on the project. The U.S. has contributed over $500 million to the project, and 1,700 scientists from 94 U.S. labs and universities have been involved.

At UC Davis, Professor Winston Ko, dean of mathematical and physical sciences, Professor emeritus Richard Lander, Professors John Conway, Mani Tripathi, Maxwell Chertok and David Pellett, and research physicists Richard Breedon, John Smith and Tim Cox have been closely involved with building the Compact Muon Solenoid, one of the giant particle detectors that is part of the Large Hadron Collider.

UC Davis has been part of the project from the beginning. In 1992, UC Davis was one of four U.S. institutions to sign a letter of intent for an international collaboration to build the Compact Muon Solenoid, with Breedon, Ko and Lander being the signatories.

Maxwell Chertok was interviewed live by KCRA-3 earlier this week about the LHC. Professor Robin Erbacher was quoted by Peter Spotts of the Christian Science Monitor in an audio clip published online.

For more on the questions the LHC is intended to address, see my magazine story from earlier this year, “Cosmic Convergence.

CERN’s LHC “First Beam” page.

Cosmic Variance live-blogged the startup.

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