As I mentioned below in my earlier post Return Of The Big Bang, today is the day the massive $4 billion partical collider went online. Though it will be at least a month before scientists attempt to collide two beams of protons, the initial tests begun today were completely successful.
At 10:26 a.m. (8:26 GMT) the first pass was completed as protons finished traveling clockwise around the 17 mile underground ring. Five hours later, scientists fired a beam in the opposite direction with equally successful results. These tests are the lead up to proton beams being fired simultaneously in opposite directions where they will collide and theoretically recreate conditions a split second after the Big Bang.
According to Alexander Higgins’ article in the Associated Press:
Scientists hope to eventually send two beams of protons through two tubes about the width of fire hoses, speeding through a vacuum that is colder and emptier than outer space. The paths of these beams will cross, and a few protons will collide. The collider’s two largest detectors — essentially huge digital cameras weighing thousands of tons — are capable of taking millions of snapshots a second.
As for concerns that this experiment might cause mini black holes thus endangering the Earth, James Gillies, the chief spokesman for CERN, claimed, “It’s nonsense.” World renowned scientist Stephen Hawking also declared the experiments to be absolutely safe.
Though proton colliding experiments will begin in a little over a month, the accelerator is still about a year away from full power.