back to article El Reg's LHC visit - Deleted Scenes

The Large Hadron Collider - the gigantic underground double-barrelled particle cannon assembled by top boffins deep beneath the Franco-Swiss border - is to start up again "around the 20th" of this month. Not only is the LHC tremendously cool (quite literally) in its own right, it's also the focus of a global hypercomputing grid …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    I hope

    they let someone named Gordon push the button. I for one have my crowbar ready.

  2. Dan 10

    Great article

    Top stuff, although more pictures and more of the 'unique and fascinating facts' would have been welcome.

    It does strike me that, following the previous failure, the whole world knows that the LHC is now gearing up again, but the idea of 'half-power, then see what happens' is rather different to 'it's ready to go' - I can't help thinking they should have publicised this to avoid looking stoopid if it fails again due to an unchecked dead component.

  3. MartinBZM

    No worries, right?

    Except... When I see computers intended to run a potential black hole generator display a Windows logo. Nothing against Microsoft for regular, simple, non-critical day-to-day use but this gives a whole new dimension to the term "WinBlows"...

    Just MY worries.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Moar like this!

    Way cooler than miniature trains. In more than one way.

  6. Annihilator

    Live eyes

    "("It has to be a live eyeball, too", according to our hosts.)"

    Ah, I see they've been watching Angels and Demons. Poor bastards.

  7. Robert Sneddon
    Gates Horns

    Doomed, doomed I tell 'ee!

    Spot the control screen showing the default "rolling green hills" WinXP wallpaper. DOOM! DOOM! and thrice DOOM!

  8. John Robson Silver badge

    head-on at almost light speed

    Thought they were colliding at more like twice light speed (from our reference frame of course)

  9. SmallYellowFuzzyDuck, how pweety!

    It's a shame they didn't let you go downstairs.

    I'm one of the very lucky people to have worked on this project. I spent something like the last five years making regular visits to the ATLAS experiment installing equipment. I also spent many years before that building delicate detector components working in a clean room.

    I have seen ATLAS grow slowly from a pretty much empty cavern to the fully filled massive wall of technology it is now. It's a shame you guys missed out on seeing it, it's a mind blowing sight. It's bigger and more complicated than you can ever imagine. And it just one part of the LHC.

    I have even had a chance to walk 300 meters along the LHC tunnel, amazing to consider I covered no distance of the 27 kilometre length. Damn that thing is so big!

    Yep, I have my eyeball scanned in, I always find it fun staring into the sensor awaiting for the Thank You message and finally the doors open to let me in.

    Yeah, it's up there with the moon landings with regard to the size and complexity of the experiment.

    What a privilege it has been for me to have spent so much time and effort and hard work on something as big as this.

    What can I say, let's switch that thing on in November...

    GO LHC, GO!

  10. Neoc
    Thumb Up

    Need a new keyboard.

    "It has to be a live eyeball, too"

    And now my keyboard is covered in coffee.

  11. Tony 34

    You know hoo...

    My favourite screensaver - wonder if they run the OS.

  12. wsm

    How long...

    How long can this thing operate before The Doctor comes to turn it into a giant flower pot because it's causing Cybermen to return to the galaxy?

  13. JonP

    "I'm a mechanical engineer, not an electrical one. It was an electrical fault."

    Made me smile anyway...

  14. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Down


    I downloaded the LHC app onto my iPhone ($1.99)

    Higgs Boson and me are best of pals!!

  15. Paul Uszak

    Relativity 101 for dumbos

    "Thought they were colliding at more like twice light speed (from our reference frame of course)"

    Err, no. Two objects heading towards each other at the speed of light are still approaching at the speed of light relative to each other. You're kind of missing the whole idea of relativity...

  16. Chris Elvidge


    "there are FEWER atoms inside the tubes than there are in outer space"

  17. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

    Prepare for the REAL "Web 2.0"

    Remember what came out of CERN and changed the internet before?

  18. ForthIsNotDead Silver badge

    So cool

    You lucky lucky lucky bastards.

    I wish I could go there and see that stuff.

    Personally, I would crawl a mile-long road of broken glass, just to sniff the exhaust fumes of the van that delivers the pies to that place!


  19. chrrris

    Pedantry no. 2

    Of course there are fewer atoms inside a subset of all space, compared to all space.

    "there are fewer atoms, per unit volume, inside the tubes than there are per unit volume in outer space"

  20. Mike Flugennock

    Hang on a second, what tha'...

    ...imagine my disappointment when I clicked on the headline and all I found was actual photographs of the actual Large Hadron Collider.

    I was totally expecting a nice, juicy Playmobil spread. Humph.

    C'mon, you guys; Playmobil coverage or it didn't happen.

  21. Scott Broukell

    I see ....

    your trying to smash ikkle bitty things into eachother at extreme velocity, would you like some help with that ?

  22. Steven Jones

    @John Robson

    I think you've rather missed the whole point of relativity - the common sense notion of what "relative speed" means cannot be expressed from a third frame of reference. The only meaningful relatlve speed of those two colliding particles is from their own frames of reference.

    You can calculate the relative speeds from outside their frames of reference, but you have to use the appropriate relativistic formula. In a very real sense, the relative speed of two objects from a third frame of reference is pretty well a meaningless concept. At normal, everyday speeds in our human world, the difference doesn't matter. Common sense enhanced with a bit of Newtonian mechanics does fine. However, that intuitive sense lets us down completely when understanding relativity.

  23. Apocalypse Later

    Scientists, what's their hurry?

    It's really only sensible to start with the smaller hadrons first, and work up to the large ones.

  24. RainForestGuppy

    At least look the part

    That control room looks rubbish, there is far to much biege. It looks likes a 1960's Dr Who set.

  25. Grease Monkey

    This is getting boring...

    "doing this experiment is more complicated than sending a man to the moon, and it is not us who says this but those who did send men to the moon."

    I've lost count of the number of things about which I've heard that claimed. I think the first time I heard that one it referred to Concorde. Indeed if every instance of this story is to be believed getting a man on the moon is pretty easy.

    However in this instance I'm not convinced. In designing and building the LHC they could rely on massive computing power. In getting a man on the moon* they had only rudimnetary computing power and some pencils and paper.

    * If they didn't just fake it - happy now conspiracy theorists?

  26. TeeCee Gold badge

    "Kids love it,"

    Yeah, for like five minutes.

    Then they go back to the Wii / Xbox / Cartoon Network / whatever.

    They're not going to sell many of these come Xmas with that sort of attention holding record.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    @Frank Gerlach

    Where are you taking your quote from? And where on earth does anyone mention their mother? What an extraordinary obsession to have...

    On an unrelated note, for some reason when I saw the headline I was convinced this would be a PlayMobil reconstruction.

  28. Toby Murcott

    Double pedantry

    "there are FEWER atoms inside the tubes than there are in outer space"

    Fewer is grammatically correct, of course, but it's no big deal that there are fewer atoms inside the LHC than in outer space. I strongly suspect that there are fewer atoms in the Solar System than there are in outer space. Surely it's the density of atoms inside the LHC that is lower than in outer space? That is the LHC houses a harder vacuum than outer space.

    My coat's the one with the slide rule in the pocket...

  29. John Edwards
    Paris Hilton

    A stray bird

    So how the hell did a stray bird get into the LHC to drop a bit of stale bread?

    Paris 'cos she could get in anywhere

  30. Roni Leben

    Pedantry 2

    "there are less atoms inside the tubes than there are in outer space"

    I am sure the meant "less atoms per unit of volume", not as an absolute number...

  31. Valerion

    Man to the moon

    Pah, getting a man on the moon IS easy.

    It's getting him back again that's the tricky bit.

  32. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge


    With the guys and gals of CERN supposedly having the biggest brains in Europe I'm slightly worried by the concept of them "hoping" that things will be OK by only running it at half power.

  33. zenkaon

    LHC OSes

    Spotted a few comments about that windows XP screen and though I'd comment. I work for ATLAS.

    CERN runs a mixed bag of OSes, XP is used for admin staff, meeting rooms (powerpoint lock-in), public PCs, running software for kit bought from outside (eg. some security stuff, some monitoring stuff) that only has XP software, and for generally being handy if you need a windows PC.

    Mac Books are everywhere, I'd say about 40% of physicists use them. About 30% of laptops run windows (various flavours) and about 30% run linux (all flavours under then sun - choice of geek). Pretty much all our desktop PCs have Windows Vista Basic stickers but actually run scientific linux.

    Deep underground, in the control rooms and on the grid, the OS that runs the show is scientific linux. It's a home brew based on red hat enterprise linux with a bucket load of custom software.

    I know a lot of el reg readers like to see plots of computer usage, check out what the LCG (LHC Computing Grid) is doing:

    Have a click around, this is what can be done with "cloud computing" and red hat

  34. Steven Jones

    Pedantry #3

    "I am sure the meant "less atoms per unit of volume", not as an absolute number..."

    The correct form would stil be "fewer atoms per unit of volume" as atoms are, in principle, countable.

    It is, of course, an oddity in English that we have the comparative adjectives "fewer" and "less" for discrete and non-discrete quantities, whilst the opposite adjective is "more" in both cases. It is also worth noting that "less" is commonly used for some countable items, such as "less than four weeks", although perhaps those are justified by the actual underlying quality (time in this case) being effectively continuous in nature.

  35. Parax

    "rolling green hills"

    It's just a screen saver...

    It can actually cause more panic than the BSOD screensaver!

  36. Michael Noonan

    Rads to the tads in the nads of the lads of the nation

    Beer alert ... don't drink the water.

    I never got a response to the question of what do they do to all the damaged particles. Trillions of shock treated particles dumped twice a day next to one of the largest fresh water sources in Europe. The stuff in the tube still numbers enough to be part of the water content of every person on earth within the first days of running. Statistically speaking of course.

    Does the nation with the greatest number of accelerators have fertility problems. Perhaps long ago someone said we should not paint ships with anti foul because it would poison the oceans. My guess is that they were called an idiot. Back then there was one dead sea and now there are fifteen of them, some as big as continents.

  37. SmallYellowFuzzyDuck, how pweety!

    Same comment as zenkaon here

    Yeppers, the guys at CERN use Scientific Linux for the most of the machines. Have a look on the web for it everyone.

    Windows is used on machines used for simple non-LHC tasks.

    But as zenkaon says it's amazing to note how many people own Apple laptops at CERN, the Physics guys really love them. There has been lots of people there also saying that iMac are becoming popular as desktop machines, can't remember which control room it was but one of them is apparently fitted out with Apples.

    Down in the ATLAS pit in one of the side equipment rooms (USA15) there have appeared lots of aluminium iMacs.

    I'm not a fanboi, but all those people who keep calling Apple computers "Toys" should be aware of how many people use them at the place that invented the WWW...

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The only appropriate screensaver for this location is "The Matrix", of which there are many versions for windows. Are there any Linux ones?

  39. James 107

    Control room

    The CMS control room has a large collection of Apple desktops. And yes, I have an Apple laptop...

  40. Steven Jones

    @Michael Noonan

    One assumes that you are either making a joke, or had imbined rather a lot of intoxicating liquid before you wrote that lot. On just one minor point, it's a bit difficult to imagine a dead sea larger than a continent as they only ones that I know of that are in such a state are inland.

  41. zenkaon


    The ATLAS satellite control room (normal one isn't big enough for all of us!) is full of iMacs - but they mostly run scientific linux, only your crippled with one mouse button. I wouldn't recommend scientific linux to most people, it's not so good with a monitor, keyboard and mouse. Much better to use fedora or ubuntu. However, when you get several hundred racks of pizza boxes distributed hat (or derivatives) all the way! No other credible option really.

    The reason physics guys love macs is because when you open a terminal you have unix.

  42. RW

    Pedantry #4

    Steven Jones wrote:

    It is also worth noting that "less" is commonly used for some countable items, such as "less than four weeks", although perhaps those are justified by the actual underlying quality (time in this case) being effectively continuous in nature.

    "Less" is the right word in that case because you are measuring a continuous quantity, viz. time. "Fewer" would be correct in a context where the time period referred to was quantized in one-week periods, but you'd probably have to be pretty specific in that case if you wanted to avoid being charged with "failure to pedanticize".¹ "Getting the LHC up and running should take fewer than 1000 one-week time slots."

    I drank less than six gallons of beer.

    I drank fewer than six one-gallon bottles of beer.

    ¹ Though given NuLabour's chronic distrust of anything with a whiff of elitism about it (e.g. talent, experience, education, intelligence, smarts, gumption, having the chops, consistency, subtlety, etc), pedantry may be on the list of thought crimes to be outlawed.

  43. Mark 131


    360 degree gaming f@#$% yeah!! circular office's and after hour gaming parties anyone?

  44. Russ Williams

    Re: Live Eyes

    @Annihilator: Nah, they probably watched Demolition Man, so all is well.

    (Beer is bad for you, hence illegal)

  45. Fred Flintstone Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    @ Screensaver

    Been a part of the extra screensavers in (Open)SuSE for years, so I assume other distros have it too, SuSE was never snappy with adoption.

    There's even a nice 3D one which I like. Anyone any idea where I can get this for Ubuntu? And is it part of Mandriva (or is it Mandrake, just pulled in the new DVD over bit torrent)?

    (note: it simply means I haven't made up my mind about new distro yet - getting bored with OpenSuSE)..

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Screensaver or Wallpaper

    Come On dont tell me you cant tell them appart

  47. Bill Fresher


    How are they making that book float in mid air in the first photo?

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