Everything you need to know about the Large Hadron Collider

large hadron collider news theories header
CERN
Deep under the border of Switzerland and France, a massive ring-shaped installation blasts particles into one another at incredible speeds. Scientists observe these collisions, allowing them to observe the impossibly small particles — which essentially make up the very fabric of reality — for an infinitesimal moment of time. This enormous structure is known as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), and has provided physicists with incredible insights into the physical makeup of our universe.

That said, it also seems like every headline regarding the LHC threatens to either overturn the current model of physics, or open a world-ending tear in inter-dimensional space-time. Given just how information (and misinformation, for that matter) is out there about the particle collider, we’ve put together this simple yet exhaustive guide outlining everything you might want to know about it.

What is the Large Hadron Collider?

lhc_long_1

The Large Hadron Collider was constructed between 1998 and 2008 and began its first operational run on November 20, 2009, following a year-long delay due to an incident where an electrical fault resulted in several tons of liquid helium coolant being vented into the tunnel. The massive project cost a staggering $9 billion to construct, making it the most expensive machine ever built.

Like the name suggests, the LHC smashes beams of tiny particles such as hadrons — i.e. small particles made of even smaller subatomic particles known as quarks — into each other at ultra-high speeds. These particle beams are launched with about 13 teraelectronvolts (TeV) of combined energy, resulting in unbelievably dense particles that are about 1,000,000 times hotter than the Sun’s core. This is one of the many reasons the structure is housed underground, and why it’s cooled to 1.9 degrees Kelvin, or nearly 1.9 degrees above absolute zero.

Those aren’t the only impressive numbers associated with the LHC, though.

Throughout the 17-mile loop, some 1,600 magnets curve and direct the beams around the massive tunnel and into one another. The magnets are made up of tiny strands of coiled copper-coated niobium-titanium, which — if unraveled — would reach to the Sun and back five times over, with enough left over to wrap around the moon and back a few times as well.

All that magnetic material helps accelerate the particle beams to super-high speeds just shy of the speed of light. When they collide at such speeds, the tiny particles explode into subatomic particles, crashing and bouncing off one another in a high-energy environment that’s similar to the conditions of the universe at the time of the Big Bang. Within these explosions, researchers search for new clues into how the universe works.

In order to collect and analyze the vast amounts of data produced by the LHC, a global network of 170 computing centers spread over 36 countries crunches tens of petabytes of data every year. The network grid is so large it currently holds the Guinness World Record for the largest distributed computer grid on Earth.

Emerging Tech

Beresheet crash caused by manual command, but reflector device may have survived

Details are emerging about what may have gone wrong with spacecraft Beresheet's failed moon landing. A manual command was entered which led to a chain reaction. But NASA still hopes to salvage use of its Laser Retroreflector Array device.
Deals

The best Amazon Prime Day 2019 deals: Everything you need to know

Amazon Prime Day 2019 is still a few months off, but it's never too early to start preparing. We've been taking a look at the best discounts from previous Prime Days to give you our predictions of what to expect this year.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (April 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Home Theater

What’s new on Hulu in May 2019, and what’s leaving soon

Our complete list of what's new on Hulu for May 2019, our personal favorites, and which titles will be removed will help you catch up on all the site has to offer -- and ensure you don't miss any titles heading into the streaming ether.
Emerging Tech

The oldest type of molecule in the universe has been located at last

A milestone in the development of the early universe was the combination of helium and hydrogen atoms into a molecule called helium hydride. But strangely enough, this ancient molecule has never been detected in space before now.
Emerging Tech

The grid of the future will be powered by … giant subterranean bagpipes?

In order to transition to a more renewable-focused energy system, we need to scale up our grid storage capacity --- and our existing methods aren't going to cut it. Could compressed air be the key?
Emerging Tech

Mercury’s wobble as it spins reveals that it has an inner solid core

Scientists have long wondered what the inside of Mercury looks like, and they now have strong evidence that the planet has a large and solid metallic core. The data for the new findings was collected by the now-defunct MESSENGER mission.
Emerging Tech

Gravitational forces at heart of Milky Way shaped this star cluster like a comet

Hubble has captured the stunning Messier 62 cluster. The cluster is warped, with a long tail which stretches out to form a shape like a comet. It is thought this distortion is due to Messier 62's proximity to the center of the galaxy.
Emerging Tech

Burgers are just the beginning: Embracing the future of lab-grown everything

You’ve almost certainly heard of the 'farm to fork' movement, but what about 'lab to table'? Welcome to the fast-evolving world of lab-grown meat. Is this the future of food as we know it?
Emerging Tech

Troubleshooting Earth

It’s no secret that humans are killing the planet. Some say it’s actually so bad that we’re hurtling toward a sixth major extinction event -- one which we ourselves are causing. But can technology help us undo the damage we’ve…
Emerging Tech

Inside the Ocean Cleanup’s ambitious plan to rid the ocean of plastic waste

In 2013, Boyan Slat crowdfunded $2.2 million to fund the Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization that builds big, floating trash collectors and sets them out to sea, where they’re designed to autonomously gobble up garbage.
Emerging Tech

Climeworks wants to clean the atmosphere with a fleet of truck-sized vacuums

Using machines that resemble jet engines, Climeworks wants to fight climate change by extracting CO2 from thin air. The gas can then be sold to carbonated drink and agriculture companies, or sequestered underground.
Emerging Tech

How 3D printing has changed the world of prosthetic limbs forever

When he was 13 years old, Christophe Debard had his leg amputated. Here in 2019, Debard's Print My Leg startup helps others to create 3D-printed prostheses. Welcome to a growing revolution!
1 of 4