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. John H Woods Silver badge

    Begging the question ...

    As even bright people now routinely (mis)use 'begging the question' to mean 'raising the question' what, pray, may we use to replace it? 'Undermining one's own logical argument by assuming the point at issue' doesn't have the same ring to it.

    Good work on the artilce btw.

  2. Ian Tresman

    Big Bang balloney

    While the experiment is impressive, it will say nothing about the Big Bang. The large hadron collider produces a collision between "light-weight" subatomic particles. The Big Bang was an explosion of ultradense material.

    It's like two cars colliding, and claiming you figure you the origins of civilization from the wreckage.

  3. James

    Would It hurt...

    If you stood in it? (Ignoring the fact that it is 1K above absolute zero and the vacuum...)

    I'm pretty sure an aircraft carrier would hurt but maybe I'm mistaken.

  4. alain williams Silver badge

    @Alastair Smith

    "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?!"

    Errrm, massive means that it has a lot of mass, ie it is very heavy. The reason that the chamber is buoyant is because it weighs less per volume (ie is less dense) than the surrounding earth/rock -- ie it is NOT masssive.

    I assume that rather than "massive" you meant "big". Nitpicking ? Maybe: but we are talking about a physics experiment.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    @I'm confused

    *rolls eyes*

    Read something on special relativity. Please.

    Mine's the one with a crib sheet on the garage paradox in the pocket.

  6. Darren B

    The Hadron Collinder

    That thing will take a lot of Brocolli.

    Am I the only one who keeps misreading it as Collinder?

  7. Alex Lane

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

    I think a hyperdrive is whatever you want it to be. It's fictional, a bit like Mike Sala

  8. Solomon Grundy

    @Lee Staniforth

    That is not a white lie - you told your daughter an outright fallacy of the blackest kind.

    On another note it really pisses me off that the media are scaring children with their end of the world smack.

  9. Raymond Wilson

    The Huggs Bossom..

    How on earth will Doc Emmett Brown fit this contraption into the DeLorean time machine? In essence it is an oversized Flux Capacitor used to move matter around at light speed and cause two particles (Marty McFly & Biff) to collide!

  10. Anonymous Coward

    @Graham Orr

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

    Don't worry, there's plenty of Star Trek fans to go around...

    With apologies to Family Guy

  11. ben

    Our first chance...

    to rip a hole in the fabric or reality.

    We'll peer through and see an immense student leaning over his laptop keyboard at us playing spore.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Halo

    Would it not be better........

    ..... to have some super-rich, uber geek (with initials BG ?) use all his hard-earned cash to develop our very own Deep Thought (that's the Douglas Addams one, not the sad IBM effort), and then Deep Thought can produce all the answers without us mere mortals putting our whole existence on the line by (possibly) generating black holes in an atom-smasher ?

  13. Mark

    re: I'm confused

    this would be because your assertion is wrong.

    The closing speed of two particles traveling at nearly the speed of light is even nearer the speed of light. If you take as "closing speed" the speed of the other particle from the point of view of one of the colliding particles.

    If you're talking about from the point of view of the rest frame of the experiment, one particle is moving at speed of light going one way and the other is moving at the speed of light the other way. I.e. they are going at nearly light speed toward each other.

  14. Mark

    re: element 115, anybody ???

    You used the wrong icon.

    Either that or you'll have to explain why element 115 is the result of two stars near each other.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Paging Dr Freeman...

    Mine is the one with the Crowbar in it...

  16. Tony


    "are also actually travelling apart at twice the speed of sound "

    Whoops - I meant twice the speed of light.

    I'm having a bad day - the consultants are in and they say no even though the computer says yes. The MD is close to turning into a black hole himself - don't need the LHC, could have saved £5 Billion.

    Please be gentle with me. We need a "I'm feeling fragile" icon.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    @Darren B

    You mean a colander? A large hadron colander would have to have very small holes...

  18. Dan
    Thumb Down

    taking the piss

    is all very well, but you can't knock the scale and complexity of this experiment. also, if the higgs is not found now, it never will be no matter how large an accelerator is built...

  19. pctechxp

    Check out that server room

    It's a BOFH's wet dream

  20. YumDogfood

    The Higgs Bozo

    - superheavy, rare and falls apart at the slightest provocation - resulting in massive contamination of any lighter weight elements nearby.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Stupid idea

    I hope the explosion blows up the detector

  22. Bo Pedersen

    re: next phase in the project

    never mind protons , its time to collide some other stuff to settle old arguments

    like 2 video streams one StarWars and the Other StarTrek

    also audio streams Britney vs Aguilera

    any more suggestions for collisions?

  23. GrahamT

    Hog's Bison: The Guardian explains it all quite well...

    "27km large haddock collider smashes barnacles together at 47 times the speed of matter, recreating conditions last seen shortly after Big Ben. Heat and pressure combine to create Cod particle, also known as Hog’s bison."

    Full version here:

  24. beast666

    Accelerator vs. Collider

    The LHC is not strictly an accelerator such as SLAC, its a collider (The hints in the name LHC!)

    Nor is it an atom-smasher (even when they get around to colliding heavy ions instead of protons.)

  25. Watashi

    Professional cynic

    "Look beyond the headlines, and questions begin to pile up."

    Nice to see El Reg continuing the "scientists are all trying to pull the wool over our eyes" agenda.

    Any good physics school teacher will gladly tell their A-Level pupils (if not for even younger pupils) about the failings of modern particle physics, QM and Relativity. If you study Physics at University you can't escape it. The fact that the Standard Model has serious problems is the least well kept secret in the whole of science - it's hardly the fault of the particle physicists that most people (inc. journalists) are idiotic buffoons with the scientific aptitude of a warm cup of tea.

    Put it this way - this experiment will not reveal the mysteries of the universe, but if we want human colonies on far away worlds, then pinning down the Higgs Boson (if it even exists) is as necessary a step as that of Newton realising that gravity was a deterministic force acting between lumps of matter.

  26. beast666



    Except that the experiment may shed light on the fact that gravity *isn't* "...a deterministic force acting between lumps of matter."

    If that doesn't "...reveal the mysteries of the universe,..." then I don't know what will...

    Even a completely null result from the LHC will tell us loads...

  27. hey_may
    Paris Hilton

    RE: A Hardon Colider!?

    It's only gay if the balls touch.

  28. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

    Cups of tea

    A good source of Brownian motion for your warp drive there mate

  29. Peter Williams
    Thumb Up

    New physics - poor SF writers...

    Just think of all the SF writers out there waiting to revise their tech.. :)

    Neat gizmo though..

  30. Neil Stansbury

    Faster than light

    Sorry to nit pick but E=mc^2 doesn't say "nothing can travel faster than the speed of light".

    What it says is for a body of mass to accelerate to the speed of light either requires an infinite amount of energy in a finite amount of time, or a finite amount of energy in an infinite amount of time. As time (at the moment) is purely a relativistic concept this isn't precluded.

    Additionally, there is nothing that prevents a body of mass ALWAYS having traveled at superluminal speeds.

    Finally the groups velocity of light waves have already experimentally been made to travel faster than light.

    Personally, I hope they don't find the Higgs, it's a horribly inelegant theory and it will be far more exciting if they don't.

  31. Steve Hodson
    Paris Hilton


    A Large Hardon Colander eh.... brings to mind some kind of glory hole experiment gone awry :-/

    Mines the grubby brown mac with the copy of perv monthly in it.

  32. David Shaw
    Thumb Up

    I helped build some of the earlier CERN high energy magic machines..

    It was nice to hear the SPS getting a mention on radio4 this am, nobody reminded us how the LEP - large electron positron 27km biggest experiment since...yes, you've heard it, anyway how LEP couldn't circulate a beam at first try as some joker had stuffed an empty beer bottle up the vacuum tube! I presume LHC had an obstacle patrol!

    I once dumped n x 10^9 antiprotons at 3.5GeV/c into the wrong place, wasn't no black holes that I noticed, but it did snow a lot that year!

  33. beast666

    @Neil Stansbury

    You are so wrong on so many levels... The Higgs mechanism may seem convoluted, but its the simplest theory thats fits observations 'so far!' That's the whole point of the LHC to settle this, one way or another...

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I never thought I’d see a resonance cascade, let alone cause one!

    Good article, I liked it. Also, the links to Field Propulsion were nice, though I had to look up “circumferential”. I must say, as a layman, having three independent experiments that all measure an artificial gravity field orders of magnitude greater than can be predicted by general relativity is quite exiting. I hope they continue to progress.

    As for the LHC, well some peoples reactions over at lhcconcerns just makes me think that science is not being taught very well in our schools. Hell, they scare me more than the totally improbable chance that LHC will produce a stable black hole or spark another big bang. I mean, people going “There are some things that must remain a mystery” is just freaky, if everyone had that attitude, then we’d still be living in caves.

    History is littered with mouth breathers like them. The first passenger trains got created and you had people who insisted that going over 30mph would asphyxiate the passengers. Or how about people who thought that the detonation of a nuclear bomb above ground would cause the atmosphere to ignite, incinerating all life on the planet?

    We have observed “jets” being emitted from the poles of other galaxies. Currently, we think that these are partials being ejected by the magnetic field of a super massive black hole that’s in a feeding stage. We think these particles are travelling at near the speed of light. So how come, when they hit something they don’t seem to produce a black hole or a new big bang? After all, they have far more energy than can be produced by LHC.

    All this scaremongering is about a valid as people getting scared of Dihydrogen monoxide.

    Hope the LHC team find some interesting stuff though. It would be a shame if all that money was spent and nothing new was found. Mind you, given the nature of an experiment failure to find something is still a result.


  35. Dave Morris


    Unless I missed some recent newsbreaking update from our dearly departed Einstein, he said nothing about E=mc^2 having anything to do with how fast something can move. E=mc^2 is only an explanation of how much energy a mass contains if the entire mass is converted is a loss less manner into energy.

    I think what you're looking for is the relativistic mass formula: mrel = m0/sqrt(1-v^2/c^2)

    This is part of special relativity, as implied by many others above. It says that the relative mass is increased as the mass' velocity increases. If v == c then you get a divide by 0 error; this can be treated as infinite (since that is what the limit as v approaches c is), or it could be seen as a special case not covered by the formula.

  36. ian

    Assuming we all survive...

    What will CERN do with the tunnel after they bin the LHC? It might make a wonderful thrill ride, but the riders might need to flash passports as they speed across the Swiss/French border.

    Or perhaps it could become a velodrome.

    Some forward planning is required here. Unless CERN know there is no need...

  37. Dex

    re: Bryce Prewitt

    I bet the gman works at CERN >.<

    Lets see.....crowbar...check, pistol...check

    Mine's the orange and black HEV suit

  38. steven kraft Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    If your wondering why SETI can't find extraterrestrial life

    Maybe they should try boosting their reception on signals in the digital television spectrum to find the sad final moments of our noble alien neighbors at the height of their hubris? I can see it now:

    "This is Xeenathean News Network science correspondent Browarjemenq Nprinwed coming to you live from the opening ceremony of the brand-new Beam Fusion Directorate. The atmosphere here in the BFD control room is one of pure excitement as Supreme Overlord Lweyintokl is set to press the shiny red button that will start the first full power experiment and usher in a new age of understanding of our universe. The Supreme Overlord is stepping up to the control panel and he's reaching for the button! You can hear the beam generat...."


  39. Dave

    Gordon Freeman

    You jest.

  40. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    No news good news?

    I got excited for a while, but what a let down!

    The was unresponsive for most of the day. And now when I finally got through today, there's no mention of anything happening since last Friday:

    Maybe they blew up afterall.

  42. Acme Fixer
    Paris Hilton

    @ Anon John

    Five hours to Mars, and you have to spend one and a half times that long clearing Customs, getting your insides sterilized (we can't pollute another planet with our germs), and getting x-rayed for terrorist paraphernalia. Oh, and then there are the lines.. So big deal!

    Paris, because she'll be only one of the few who can afford the trip!

  43. Neil Stansbury



    Quote: "You are so wrong on so many levels... The Higgs mechanism may seem convoluted"

    So I find the theory cludgy and inelegant. Hmm so I'm intrigued - that makes me wrong on so many levels how?

    @Dave Morris

    Quote: "Unless I missed some recent newsbreaking update from our dearly departed Einstein, he said nothing about E=mc^2 having anything to do with how fast something can move."

    Err... yes actually he did.

    If a force is applied to an object in the direction of motion, the object gains momentum. It also gains energy because the force is doing work.

    The formula you are probably looking for is: E^2=( mc^2 )^2 +( pc )^2

    BTW. Relativistc Mass is generally frowned on by serious scientists.

  44. Anonymous Coward


    Nothing with mass can go the speed of light, and massless particles can not (supposedly) go any faster. However, as a particle with mass approaches the speed of light, its mass increases, to infinity the closer it gets to C. This is what prevents it from achieving light speed. As the mass increases, so does the particle's kinetic energy, which is what ultimately makes the collision more powerful (like two semis vs. two compact cars), and what yields the bizarre collision products that are hoped for. As a side note, since photons travel the speed of light, due to time dilation, photons do not age (travel forward through time), a concept that has always fascinated me.

    Re. a large hardon collider: That's one event I really hope I don't get to see, nor its collision products. It's bad enough with one when you slip out.

  45. John Paul McAuley

    title needed? but i dont want one!


  46. Kevin Rudd

    Swallow that coffee before reading this.

    Q: So what instrument are the boffins going to use to view the Higgs boson at the LHC?

    A: A COLLIDERscope!! (Get it! kaleidoscope, colliderscope? If I have to explain it it just spoils it)

  47. Kevin Kitts


    I just hope the LHC's powerful field doesn't align the magnetic field underneath of it, causing a magnetic pole shift. Then that whole area of Europe would have virtually no shielding from the Sun's radiation, and would fry. Oops.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Last night's One Show on BBC

    It was hilarious! Up to €6.4 billion and 20 years for a small flash on a screen. Quality. Didn't it make all you scientist dicks (no pun intended) look stupid with you hardon machine.

    PS - Nice picture on Page 1 el Reg - it's of a tunnel but where is the hardon machine?

    Paris - she would spot a missing hardon machine

  49. Sweep

    @ Anonymous Coward

    "Hawking had said he 'wasn't holding his breath'"

    surely that's just because he can't, being on a ventilator and all.

  50. Mark


    You just proved yourself wrong.

    Your E=mc2 is the RESULT of relativistic momentum. E=mc2 doesn't have anything to do with explaining why things can't go at the speed of light, and why? There's NOTHING about the speed of the particle in that equation. There IS in the other one you produced.

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