Large Hadron Collider smashes its first protons

Chris Davies - Nov 24, 2009, 4:22am CST

Think back over the last 24 hours or so – did you feel a shimmer in the fabric of the universe?  If not, you’re obviously not tuned into CERN, who powered up the Large Hadron Collider and fired two proton beams simultaneously for the first time yesterday.  While the first collisions have already been spotted, it’s still early days for Higgs boson spotting overall: the scientists in charge of the LHC still have to ramp up the proton speed, with a target of 1.2 trillion electron volts (TeV) by Christmas.

It hasn’t been an easy journey getting to the first collision, either.  An electrical problem back in 2008 led to the whole system being decommissioned until mid-2009, while just a few weeks back a rogue loose-beaked bird was accused of dropping a piece of bread on some exposed electronics and further delaying the experiments.

Currently the beams are moving at a relatively slow 450 GeV, but even so the early results are finding favor among the research team.  “The tracks we’re seeing are beautiful,” said LHCb spokesperson Andrei Golutvin, “we’re all ready for serious data taking in a few days time.”

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