- Title: SWITZERLAND: Scientists start world's biggest physics experiment in Switzerland
- Date: 11th September 2008
- Summary: (CCC) (BN10) MEYRIN, SWITZERLAND (SEPTEMBER 10, 2008) (REUTERS) CERN'S SCIENTIFIC DIRECTOR JOS ENGELEN WALKING OUT OF THE CONTROL CENTRE (SOUNDBITE) (English) CERN'S SCIENTIFIC DIRECTOR, JOS ENGELEN, SAYING: "In this first step we are preparing a beam of protons, taking it through the injector chain, accelerating it up to an energy of 450 GEV and injecting it into the big 27 kilometre LHC ring. And the idea is to send the beam around the whole ring and then make it circulate all by itself for a little while. And then, as then as soon as possible afterwards, one tries to do exactly the same thing with the beam that is going to circulate into the opposite direction. Now if that is achieved today, one circulating beam, it's a good success."
- Embargoed: 26th September 2008 13:00
- Location: Switzerland
- Country: Switzerland
- Topics: Science / Technology
- Reuters ID: LVABXD87R1XUZ9246H1GBUO1AAW6
- Story Text: Scientists at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, (CERN), celebrate after sending beams of particles around the world's biggest and most complex machine, in two directions.
International scientists celebrated the successful start of a huge particle-smashing machine on Wednesday (September 10) aiming to recreate the conditions of the "Big Bang" that created the universe.
Experiments using the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the biggest and most complex machine ever made, could revamp modern physics and unlock secrets about the universe and its origins. They are are being carried out at CERN, the European nuclear research organisation in Switzerland.
Speaking before the experiment, CERN's Scientific Director, Jos Engelen, explained what scientists hoped to achieve.
"In this first step we are preparing a beam of protons, taking it through the injector chain, accelerating it up to an energy of 450 GEV and injecting it into the big 27 kilometre LHC ring. And the idea is to send the beam around the whole ring and then make it circulate all by itself for a little while. And then, as then as soon as possible afterwards, one tries to do exactly the same thing with the beam that is going to circulate into the opposite direction. Now if that is achieved today, one circulating beam, it's a good success," he said.
''Today we have a beam already at the entrance of the LHC,"
project leader Lyn Evans told his colleagues in the busy control room.
"And in a few minutes we will remove the block, the absorbal block, that the beam is hitting and we will take the beam around," he added.
The debut of the machine that cost 10 billion Swiss francs (9 billion USD) registered as a blip on a control room screen at about 9:30 a.m. (0730 GMT), and was greeted with loud applause by the anxious scientists.
The physicists and technicians huddled in the control room cheered loudly again, an hour later, when the particle beam completed a clockwise trajectory of the accelerator, successfully completing the machine's first major task.
"This is an historic day for CERN," said Director General, Robert Aymar.
"This is an achievement of more than twenty years of hard work by a lot of scientists from all over the world. And today was the first try to send particles, a bunch of particles in one of the two accelerators. And in one hour this accelerator accepted the full turn, which is an achievement which has never been achieved before," he added.
The test conducted inside the tightly-sealed chamber buried under the Swiss-French border, could unlock many secrets of modern physics and answer questions about the universe and its origins.
Evans said his first thought after evidence of the experiment's success, was one of relief.
"I think we are too preoccupied for the moment to have emotion, but we are at least extremely relieved that things went so well. It's a machine of enormous complexity and things can go wrong at any time.
Fortunately this morning we had very, very smooth startup," he said.
Eventually, the scientists want to send beams in both directions to create tiny collisions at nearly the speed of light, an attempt to recreate on a miniature scale the heat and energy of the Big Bang, a concept of the origin of the universe that dominates scientific thinking.
The Big Bang is thought to have occurred 15 billion years ago when an unimaginably dense and hot object the size of a small coin exploded in a void, spewing out matter that expanded rapidly to create stars, planets and eventually life on Earth.
Problems with the LHC's magnets caused its temperature -- which is kept at minus 271.3 degrees Celsius (minus 456.3 degrees Fahrenheit) -- to fluctuate slightly, delaying efforts to send a particle beam in the counter-clockwise direction. The beam started its progression and then was halted. The anti-clockwise trajectory was finally completed at around 3.00pm (1300gmt).
The project has had to work hard to deny suggestions by some critics that the experiment could create tiny black holes of intense gravity that could suck in the whole planet.
Such fears, fanned by doomsday writers, have spurred huge interest in particle physics before the machine's start-up. Leading scientists have dismissed such concerns as nonsense.
Once the particle-smashing experiment gets to full speed, data measuring the location of particles to a few millionths of a metre, and the passage of time to billionths of a second, will show how the particles come together, fly apart, or dissolve.
It is in these conditions that scientists hope to find fairly quickly a theoretical particle known as the Higgs Boson, named after Scottish scientist Peter Higgs who first proposed it in 1964, as the answer to the mystery of how matter gains mass.
Without mass, the stars and planets in the universe could never have taken shape in the aeons after the Big Bang, and life could never have begun -- on Earth or, if it exists as many cosmologists believe, on other worlds either.
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