back to article The Hadron Collider: What's it all about, then?

Around about now, boffins will be eagerly awaiting news that protons are finding their way fully around the 27km circuit of CERN's Large Hadron Collider, the latest and best atom-smasher particle accelerator - and the biggest scientific experimental apparatus ever built. This 10 September 2008 project milestone has captivated …


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  1. Anonymous John

    a hyperdrive propulsion capable of making the trip to Mars in 5 hours

    Hyperdrive is travelling faster than light, isn't it? It doesn't take light 5 hours to get from here to Mars.

    To mark the occasion, I'm baiting a scammer using the name Higgs Boson.

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  3. Alastair Smith
    Thumb Up


    This machine is an incredible feat of engineering, and perhaps the single most inspirational thing man has done so far this century. I hope the relevant people can do the sensible thing and use this as a way of making science more popular in schools and colleges. Maybe that's too much to ask.

    Did you know that the chamber containing the ATLAS detector is so massive (35m high) that it actually has buoyancy in the Earth's crust?! It rises at a rate of 0.02mm per year, and so the floor had to be set to a 5m thickness to prevent warping.

    I'm a bit of an LHC geek, despite having only a basic grasp of the physics...

  4. Graham Orr

    I was sure that Bosons were.....

    nearly exterminated by Buffalo Bill; were something navel or naval I forget which, were too small to figure much in the cosmos that is my World.

    This article is confusing and makes one point: We don't really know what's going on so lets smash some more rocks together and see what sticks to the flag-pole or some other trite trash pandered as scientific research. Sounds like a candidate for the Darwin Awards along the lines of Russian roulette using an automatic pistol....

    Mine is the one with the logo - 'We're Doomed'

    PS do the Taliban know and are there enough virgins for all of them turning up at the same time?

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  6. Solomon Grundy

    Higgs Boson is Coming

    and he's going to kill everyone at CERN sometime in late 2009 or early 2010. After several decades of looking and not finding you'd think those smartypants over at CERN would give the chap some privacy - alas no. When the LHC fires up, and they are certain of its capabilities you can bet your sweet ass CERN is going to ransom the world: Come out Boson, or we're going to destroy the planet.

    Well, maybe not, but that's what I told the jackasses over at

    One of the best geek/psycho/religious baiting experiences in years. Everyone should visit that site; if for nothing other than to marvel at humans and their understanding of science.

  7. Stephen Huyssoon

    It's The End of the World As We Have Not Know It

    This new atom smasher will allow us (yes, we are in this deal together) to see things that we could not see before. A principle of problem solving: When you can see enough of the problem, a solution will show itself. Thus, I hope solutions will show themselves.

    It's not all about particles. There is a structure to our universe. There is energy, there is a flux between our 4-space and that which is outside of our 4-space. We have much to learn and it's going to be exciting.

    I don't know whether the Higgs Boson exists but it really doesn't matter (ha ha.) It's about gravity. Gravity. What is gravity? Is it a property of matter or is it an interaction with our universe or just what is it? Can it be worked with? Yes, it can. There is a relation between electromagnetics and gravity.

    Well, I would tell more but I don't want to alert the black helicopters and have them come empty out The Reg offices.

  8. Richard Thomas

    Disturbing yet liberating revelation

    There is a leaked video on You Tube from CERN (LHC Black hole simulation Large Hadron Collider CERN) there is more to this than meets the eye, the black hole is not the concern, it is the revelation that may shatter our perception of reality.

    The link is on which has insight into the revelation. Do you really think they would spend 6 billion dollars just to find a particle?

  9. Bryce Prewitt

    I guess scientists never learned from the Black Mesa disaster.

    Will Gordon Freeman save us from CERN?

  10. Peter Gold badge

    Just imagine ..

    .. the LCH accidentally creates the first hyperdrive. We'd all be very impressed in the few nanoseconds before we plunge into some distant sun ..

    Morbid joking aside, did anyone spot that 26 countries have actually managed to do something together?

    That's worth celebrating in itself. I'll treat myself to some lhcconcerns baiting, I think.


  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice article

    I enjoyed it. Minor point: typo on the first page "as fast as speed as possible".

    Great stuff though.

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  13. Anonymous Coward

    I knew it

    (yes, the spelling *is* correct)

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Now is the time....

    Most odd. If they wanted evidence of a black hole then they would just need to take a close look at Labours spending plans. However, today is the day to max out your credit cards because the bailiffs won't be popping round to relieve you of your Mary Poppins films. And do something you have always wanted to do today because there's no chance you'll have the opportunity tomorrow.

    Wouldn't it be funny (not) if we all woke up tomorrow morning and a corner of France had been turned into a glass dish?

    Paris because there is no icon of Britney to choose, and Paris is about as close as I can get.

  15. Simon


    Just read the beebs report on the issue here -

    The head of the 'accelerator and beams department' states that there are on the order of 2000 magnetic circuits and if a single one has the polarity the wrong way round then the beam wont go round.

    Sounds like a test pilot saying 'yeah, we need to make sure the wings are on the right way up or the plane wont fly'

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just in case.

    On the off chance that I'm about to die:

    I hate you all, and it'd give me great satisfaction to know that you were all dying in some terrifying manner were I not also busy doing the same.

  17. TeeCee Gold badge

    Uneccessary use of ^H there?

    Despite the boffins getting shirty, I reckon "atom smasher" is probably a more accurate description for the whole assemblage.

    After all, while the speed you can get yer proton up to in the accelerator part is important to the process and of technical interest, the really interesting bit and the whole purpose of the exercise is what happens when you ram it into something else while it's going at full pelt.

  18. Dave Bell

    So what else could it be?

    Don't some of the pictures look rather like a crudely engineered Stargate?

    Get a burst of protons going through that, each with the kinetic energy of an aircraft carrier in a hurry, and it's going to ruin Johnny Alien's whole day.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    A Hardon Colider!?

    Is that not tad bit gay.

  20. Miles Hipkin

    a hyperdrive propulsion capable of making the trip to Mars in 5 hours

    sooooo..... when can I get one of these fitted to my flying car?

  21. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Well, well....

    For those not afraid of writeups in papery form, please check out this one at the Arxiv:

  22. Colonel Panic

    Don't take their word for it...

    I mean, if Prof Hawking is wrong, and black holes don't evaporate, it would be a Very Bad Thing.

    But you don't have to trust a bunch of gruyere-munching über-nerds - you can check it out yourself. The entire documentation for the LHC is available online:

    Now I happen to have a few bits left over from a radical hard-tail chopper project in the shed, and I've built my own. And just to reassure you all, I'm going to whack a few protons together at 10^20 TeV.

    There, I've flipped the switch.

    Its perfectly saf ---NO CARRIER---

  23. M

    Thats may have caused...

    ...the original Big Bang millions years ago when someone did the same trick....

    <Cue the event millions Years ago> Watch this (Flick switch) "Oooops!"

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not to worry

    One of the greatest events in the history of science takes place today - yet the lead headline on the majority of UK newspapers is Posh's new hairstyle.

    Maybe the world disappearing in a black hole/being flung into the sun is not at bad result.

  25. Eddie Edwards

    I already found the Higgs Boson

    It was in the footwell of my car on the passenger side, buried under M6 Toll receipts and empty cigarette packets. To be fair, my wife found it, after tidying the car up a bit. She almost missed it too - it's pretty small. 180 GeV sounds like a lot but it really isn't. It nearly got thrown out with the rubbish.

  26. Lee Staniforth

    Live Link to The End of the World

    Here's a link to a live stream from CERN (English). Unless it's all fake of course! We're dooomed!,,4078645,00-le-lancement-de-l-accelerateur-de-particules-.html

  27. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    They're all looking in the wrong place - Tom Stoppard knows the answer...

    BIRDBOOT Where's Higgs?

    MOON I replace him tonight.

    MOON AND BIRDBOOT Where's Higgs?

    MOON Every time.

    BIRDBOOT What?

    MOON It is as if we only existed one at a time, never appearing together but combining to achieve continuity. I keep space warm for Higgs. My presence defines his absence, his absence explains my presence, his presence excludes mine....When Higgs and I walk down this aisle together to claim our common seat, the oceans will fall into the sky and the trees will hang with fishes.

    BIRDBOOT [He has not been paying attention, looking around vaguely, now catches up] Where's Higgs?

    MOON Seeing me with a critic's ticket is enough. The streets are impassable tonight, you know why? It's because the country is rising and the cry goes up from hill to hill --Where--is--Higgs? [Small pause] Perhaps he's dead at last, or trapped in an elevator somewhere, or succumbed to amnesia, wandering the land with his pockets stuffed with ticket. [BIRDBOOT regards him doubtfully for a moment.]

    Paris, because even she knows Higgs is really hiding under the sofa.

  28. Richard
    Paris Hilton


    For anyone who remembers the intro to the game Another World.

    For those that don't:

    Just hope they will not be doing any experiments during a lightning storm. :)

    Paris icon coz she is from Another World.

  29. Bo Pedersen
    Jobs Horns

    not forgetting

    that A: Egon says crossing the streams is bad

    and B: Dr Evil is so going to be after that machine to hold the world to ransom, is also a mega cool looking machine that fits right into the evil world conquering genius must have section.

    Plus I want cold fusion or some other cool way to save on my leccy bill

  30. Sam

    Oh Dear

    The BBC are calling it "The Big Bang Machine"...

  31. Anonymous Coward

    @Colonel Panic

    I thought the same yesterday when I read that Hawking had said he 'wasn't holding his breath' that he'd be proven right about Hawking radiation. I'm hoping that's just because he expects them to observe nothing evaporating and not because he expects to be pulled wheels first to Geneva.

    And kudos el Reg for getting the facts right - the beeb keep trying to say they'll be colliding things today. How hard is it for them to get their facts straight - or is getting a beam of protons to circulate a 70km ring consisting of 2000 superconducting magnets first time just not awesome enough for them?

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I feel the earth move under my feet, I see the sky tumbling down...


  33. Daniel Hopkins

    Don't worry

    Don't worry fellow humans, I'm a time traveler from 2343 a.d. and I just wanted the worried people out there to know that this experiment is harmless. After eight months in operation, a new exotic particle will be found (no, not Higgs Boson, which BTW, doesn't really exist). No black holes whatsoever, at least not right now (these were created and destroyed in lab for the first time in 2157 a.d., and all went well too). BTW, instead of wasting so much time in theoretical physics, just conjuring theories, you might want to change your approach and worry more about direct observations of reality instead of theorizations. Also, you should revise some misconcepts that you have, specially some very basic ones about how electricity works and the relationship between magnetism and "gravity" (or as we call it today, "graviticity"). A hint:study the stuff that Edward Leedskalnin has left behind, and no, his "Sweet Sixteen" is not a girl, it's a symbolic reference to the key concept in electrodynamics.

    That's as much as I can say without changing the future... or making it too easy =)

  34. Anonymous Coward

    Burkhard Heim

    looks distinctly like Doc Brown to me.

  35. Lee Staniforth

    @Oh Dear

    Re the BBC"Big Bang Machine": my 6 year old daughter was upset yesterday, and didn't want to go to school as she thought the world was going to end. We had to tell her a little white lie that the experiment had already happened. Her response was "Oh yes, I remember, everything went small". Perhaps she knows something we don't!?!

  36. Gianni Straniero

    God(damn) particle

    Leon Lederman wanted to call it the "God damn particle", but his editor wouldn't let him. Or so says Higgs in an interview with The Grauniad:

  37. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: I feel the earth move under my feet, I see the sky tumbling down...


  38. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    I'm confused

    Nothing can go faster than the speed of light, right? So I'm a proton whizzing round this circular tunnel at nearly the speed of light. Without warning I spot a fellow proton whizzing round in an opposite direction doing the same speed. And it's coming straight at me.

    So the closing speed is nearly twice the speed of light? That's impossible!

    Scott me up beamy.

  39. Mark

    re: Don't Worry

    "you might want to change your approach and worry more about direct observations of reality instead of theorizations."

    Uh, so we should stop just theorising about what may be the cause of inertial mass and build something so we can SEE a particle that could cause MASS but be undetectable because it is of such high energy it cannot exist except as a virtual particle?


    I suggest we engineer something where we can get the energy concentration necessary to make these virtual particles exist for a detectible amount of time. This is probably best done by putting kinetic energy into particles and then getting them dense enough to create the right conditions.

    To make them steerable, we should chose a charged particle. Protons maybe. Some sort of charged hadron anyway.

    And if we shoot them about in opposite directions when the occasional one wollops into another one, the energy density should therefore be enough for our purposes.

    Since this will be expensive, we need several countries involved. Best, from a political standpoint, to put the device in a suitably inoffensive "neutral" country with borders near to lots of other countries, so they all feel like they get involved. Switzerland should do. And CERN could work it, after all, they have some experience.

    Can someone make such a device, please.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    element 115 anybody ???

    correction - "ZETA 1&2 RETICULI"

  41. neill austin

    Particle Physicists in Large Hadron Collider Rap shocker

    If your looking for a simple version of events they've released an instructional rap....!

  42. Sam

    RE: Nice article

    I think you will find that this is not a typo, "as fast as speed as possible, It is factually incorrect.

    Chuck Norris can run faster than protons in the LHC.

  43. Anonymous Coward

    element 115, anybody ???

    Some of us know that the true purpose of this endeavor is to create new compounds which do not naturally occur in our space neighborhood- such as element 115, the product of a binary star system (beta 1 & 2 reticuli ). This element was pointed out by robert lazar, who encountered it while back-engineering an exotic aerial craft at groom lake, nevada. These types of pursuits are what fuels such projects which exist on the fringes of science fiction & reality !!!

  44. Edwin


    you missed a chance to promote the LHC rap!

    A bit silly, but marginally edjukashunul

  45. DZ-Jay

    Re: a hyperdrive propulsion capable of making the trip to Mars in 5 hours

    No. A hyperdrive is a propulsion system which travels in hyperspace: It bends space-time to travel from one point to another, like a worm-hole, not necessarily achieving faster-than-light speeds.


  46. Chris Bradshaw

    @ Andrew - 'Nothing can go faster than the speed of light'

    Einstein solved that one - he analyzed the inconsistency and ended up with the famous e=mc^2 (energy equals mass times speed of light squared) equation. Basically subjective time for the protons 'slows down' so that they 'see' the other proton approaching at less than the speed of light. Read up on special relativity if you want to more details...

  47. DZ-Jay

    We need more beer!

    How on earth are we supposed to find this Higgin's Bossoms, eh?


  48. Tony


    "Nothing can go faster than the speed of light, right?"

    Theoretically; Einstein argued that as you approach the speed of light, mass increases towards infinity, so it shoudn't be possible to exceed it. However, (from memory about 15 years ago) there were some previous experiments that suggested that the Universe doesn't give a fig for Einstein!

    "So the closing speed is nearly twice the speed of light? That's impossible!"

    No; the closing speed is a comparison, not an actual speed. You could equally argue that as they are travelling in a circle, they are also actually travelling apart at twice the speed of sound which would cancel out the closing speed (it doesn't - that's a joke!)

  49. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    Credit where credit's due....

    Has anyone noticed how the Wackypedia stresses that a Japanese scientist who webt to an AMERICAN university ALSO thought about the Higgs Boson?

    And that Higgs' was "working FROM the ideas of" an AMERICAN scientist (and presumably also from Newton's, eventually). Furthermore some AMERICANS were the first to apply the Higgs mechanism to the electroweak theory.

    So all this work in France and Switzerland is really AMERICAN...

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Next phase in the project.

    Once they found the boson the collider is not needed anymore, I am sure you could strap on a few rollercoster cars and have some serious fun.

    Also from the London Metro paper this morning, a classic scientific reply to the doom merchants :

    Prof Brian Cox, who works on the project, said "Anyone who thinks the LHC will destroy the world is a t**t"


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