LHC Begins Big Science

 It’s a big day for Big Science: The Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland, the largest and most complex science experiment ever built, began colliding particles at an energy of 7 Tera electron-volts (TeV) just after 1 p.m. local time today, setting a new record — existing machines run up to about 1 TeV. Because mass is related to energy through Einstein’s E=mc square equation, higher energies mean that the machine can find heavier and more fundamental particles and explain some of the mysteries of modern physics. The LHC will eventually reach energies of 14 TeV.

“It’s a great day to be a particle physicist,” said CERN Director General Rolf Heuer in a press release. “A lot of people have waited a long time for this moment, but their patience and dedication is starting to pay dividends.”

A collection of live webcasts from CERN is available here.

Several other UC Davis faculty and researchers are involved in the LHC project: view a slideshow about how UC Davis helped build the collider here.  The UC Davis researchers are mostly working on the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment.

This milestone clearly marks the beginning, at long last, of the first major physics run of the new accelerator,” writes UC Davis physics professor John Conway on the Cosmic Variance blog.

Another UC Davis physics professor, Max Chertok, writes:

“This is a really exciting moment. The LHC accelerator scientists and engineers are to be lauded for their achievement. Of course, we need months of stable operations to do the physics we have been anticipating, but it’s a terrific start. That CMS recorded about 600,000 events in the few hours of running last night is testament to all the years of hard work and preparation for this day. First data analysis has already begun!”

I wrote about the frontiers of physics and cosmology for UC Davis magazine in 2008.

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