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Big bang goes phut as bird drops baguette into Cern machinery

It is the machine that scientists hope will recreate the conditions present at the beginning of time. But scientists at the £3.6bn Large Hadron Collider (LHC) found their plans to emulate the big bang postponed this week when a passing bird dropped a "bit of baguette" into the machine, causing it to overheat.

Cern, the European particle physics laboratory, launched the LHC with much fanfare on 10 September last year. Physicists hope to use the collider to prove the existence of the Higgs boson, or God particle, which gives matter in the universe its mass.

But the collider, which when running will collide protons travelling at 99.9% of the speed of light, has been out of action for over a year after a helium leak caused it to be shut down on 19 September 2008, nine days after its start-up.

The particle accelerator, which is buried 100m underground near Geneva, is currently undergoing tests ahead of its proposed restart date later this month, but the testing process was stopped on Monday after the power supply to the collider was cut.

A Cern spokeswoman, Christine Sutton, said scientists had headed above ground to investigate when they made their discovery.

"The problem related to the high voltage supply," Sutton said. "We get mains voltage from the grid, and there was an interruption in the power supply, just like you might have a power cut at home. The person who went to investigate discovered bread and a bird eating the bread."

Sutton said the bird and its bread were discovered at a compensating capacitor – one of the points where the mains electricity supply enters the collider from above ground.

The incident cut power to one of the collider's cooling plants, causing temperatures to rise by more than 3C in part of the tunnel.

Superconducting magnets within the LHC require a temperature of 1.9C above absolute zero (-273.15C) to steer, and ultimately collide, particles around the 16.8 mile (27km) circuit.

This latest incident, although far less severe, appears to bear some similarities to the fault that caused the LHC to shut for more than a year after its launch. On that occasion faulty wiring led to an electrical failure, causing a rise in temperature which led to helium, cooled to minus 271C, being released into the machine.

The 2008 fault damaged a 400 metre stretch of the collider and cost Cern £23m. Scientists had to redesign safety systems to prevent a repeat, a process which has taken over a year.

However in this latest incident the magnets were only stopped for three days, while the LHC could be recooled, and Sutton said the power cut did not pose a risk to either life or the future of the project.

"The beams [of protons] would have been dumped, we have very safe mechanisms that come instantly into play," she said.

"They deposit beams into a huge block of graphite which is cooled to take up the energy of the beam. This is something Cern has a lot of experience of, perhaps power cuts will usually be caused by a more obvious kind of interruption than a bird eating a baguette – particularly by lightning, for example, but these incidents will happen."

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Is the Large Hadron Collider a time machine?

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Associate Professor, University of Sydney

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Dean Rickles receives funding from the ARC.

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Switzerland’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) can be called a time machine in one sense: it enables us to examine conditions as they were during the universe’s early stages.

But is the 27km-long particle accelerator a time machine of the kind in science fiction?

In other words, can it create conditions that allow matter, radiation or information to travel back and forth in time?

In 2009, Holger Nielsen and Masao Ninomiya (both respectable physicists) proposed that “retrocausal” influences from the future could have been responsible for the LHC’s initial failure to operate , with nature effectively sabotaging efforts to get it up and running.

This calls to mind the “grandfather paradox”, and one possible response to it, which goes something like this: if you travelled into the past to kill your grandfather, thus preventing your own existence, events would intervene to frustrate any such attempt.

Nielsen and Ninomiya suggested that the LHC was being sabotaged from the future by nature’s abhorrence of large quantities of Higgs boson particles, the idea being that any Higgs generator (such as the LHC) would be plagued by apparent ill-fortune.

Well, the LHC is up and running again, for the third time in as many years, and proposals regarding time travel continue.

Many of these are perfectly legitimate in the context of theoretical physics.

Einstein’s theory of General Relativity tells us that the geometry of spacetime (how it curves, and therefore how objects move) can be determined by solving equations.

Depending on how you approach this process, you can get any number of possible universes with different shapes, some of which allow forms of time travel (defined as a journey with a negative net travel time).

You can also do this the other way around, and simply pick a “time machine solution” ( a wormhole , for example) and try to figure out what kind of stuff would be needed to generate it (although one usually needs exotic, physically unrealistic material to produce the right shape).

A recent hypothesis , proposed by Thomas Weiler and Chui Man Ho of Vanderbilt University, hinges once again on the elusive Higgs boson particle, this time also predicting that Higgs production would also produce another particle, called a Higgs singlet.

What’s more, they argue their proposal involves physically realistic matter, escapes all the usual paradoxes and is testable.

Weiler and Man Ho’s proposal uses ideas from M-Theory , in particular the idea that our universe is a four-dimensional slice within a much larger 11-dimensional world.

According to this view, the stuff of our universe is forever constrained to this slice, unable to travel in the other dimensions, with some exceptions.

Gravity is one exception; and Higgs singlets are another, since they only interact via gravity.

Weiler and Man Ho invoke a fifth dimension (curled up into a circle) as a shortcut along which Higgs singlets can travel backwards in time, appearing before the events that created them.

They also argue that since ordinary objects, such as humans, cannot be transported backwards in time in this way, grandfather paradox situations are eliminated.

Does this demonstrate that time machines might at last be within our grasp? Well, not quite.

Though only Higgs singlets (and gravity) can travel in the fifth dimension, Weiler and Man Ho claim the following: if the production of Higgs singlets can be controlled , those particles might be able to carry messages into the past or future.

But here’s a thought. Criminals behind bars can be very effective in running their external affairs by simply passing information along the right channels.

If one can use time-travelling singlets to transmit information, then one could (in principle) use this mechanism to send a “kill my grandfather” instruction to an assassin in the past.

And so where does this leave us? And the LHC? Only time will tell.

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Large Hadron Collider could be world’s first time machine

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Mar 15, 2011, 9:17 AM

Prof. Thomas Weiler, right, and graduate fellow Chui Man Ho (John Russell / Vanderbilt)

If the latest theory of Tom Weiler and Chui Man Ho is right, the Large Hadron Collider – the world’s largest atom smasher that started regular operation last year – could be the first machine capable of causing matter to travel backwards in time.

“Our theory is a long shot,” admitted Weiler , who is a physics professor at Vanderbilt University, “but it doesn’t violate any laws of physics or experimental constraints.”

One of the major goals of the collider is to find the elusive Higgs boson: the particle that physicists invoke to explain why particles like protons, neutrons and electrons have mass. If the collider succeeds in producing the Higgs boson, some scientists predict that it will create a second particle, called the Higgs singlet, at the same time.

According to Weiler and Ho’s theory, these singlets should have the ability to jump into an extra, fifth dimension where they can move either forward or backward in time and reappear in the future or past.

“One of the attractive things about this approach to time travel is that it avoids all the big paradoxes,” Weiler said. “Because time travel is limited to these special particles, it is not possible for a man to travel back in time and murder one of his parents before he himself is born, for example. However, if scientists could control the production of Higgs singlets, they might be able to send messages to the past or future.”

Unsticking the “brane”

Hadron Collider

The test of the researchers’ theory will be whether the physicists monitoring the collider begin seeing Higgs singlet particles and their decay products spontaneously appearing. If they do, Weiler and Ho believe that they will have been produced by particles that travel back in time to appear before the collisions that produced them.

Weiler and Ho’s theory is based on M-theory, a “theory of everything.” A small cadre of theoretical physicists have developed M-theory to the point that it can accommodate the properties of all the known subatomic particles and forces, including gravity, but it requires 10 or 11 dimensions instead of our familiar four. This has led to the suggestion that our universe may be like a four-dimensional membrane or “brane” floating in a multi-dimensional space-time called the “bulk.”

According to this view, the basic building blocks of our universe are permanently stuck to the brane and so cannot travel in other dimensions. There are some exceptions, however. Some argue that gravity, for example, is weaker than other fundamental forces because it diffuses into other dimensions. Another possible exception is the proposed Higgs singlet, which responds to gravity but not to any of the other basic forces.

Answers in neutrinos?

illustration

Weiler began looking at time travel six years ago to explain anomalies that had been observed in several experiments with neutrinos. Neutrinos are nicknamed ghost particles because they react so rarely with ordinary matter: Trillions of neutrinos hit our bodies every second, yet we don’t notice them because they zip through without affecting us.

Weiler and colleagues Heinrich Päs and Sandip Pakvasa at the University of Hawaii came up with an explanation of the anomalies based on the existence of a hypothetical particle called the sterile neutrino. In theory, sterile neutrinos are even less detectable than regular neutrinos because they interact only with gravitational force. As a result, sterile neutrinos are another particle that is not attached to the brane and so should be capable of traveling through extra dimensions.

Weiler, Päs and Pakvasa proposed that sterile neutrinos travel faster than light by taking shortcuts through extra dimensions. According to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, there are certain conditions where traveling faster than the speed of light is equivalent to traveling backward in time. This led the physicists into the speculative realm of time travel.

Ideas impact science fiction

In 2007, the researchers, along with Vanderbilt graduate fellow James Dent, posted a paper titled “Neutrino time travel” that generated a considerable amount of buzz.

Their ideas found their way into two science fiction novels. Final Theory by Mark Alpert , which was described in the New York Times as a “physics-based version of The Da Vinci Code ,” is based on the researchers’ idea of neutrinos taking shortcuts in extra dimensions. Joe Haldeman ‘s novel The Accidental Time Machine is about a time-traveling MIT graduate student and includes an author’s note that describes the novel’s relationship to the type of time travel described by Dent, Päs, Pakvasa and Weiler.

Ho is a graduate fellow working with Weiler. Their theory is described in a paper posted March 7 on the research website arXiv.org .

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How the Large Hadron Collider could create time-travelling Higgs particles

A crucial goal for the Large Hadron Collider is to find the long-sought Higgs boson. It might also create another Higgs particle that only travels through hidden dimensions, meaning it can pop in and out of any point in time.

Since the Higgs boson is the missing subatomic particle of the standard model of physics, the search for it hogs most of the headlines. (For a good breakdown on the Higgs boson, check out Dr. Dave Goldberg's earlier post .) But Vanderbilt theoretical physicists Tom Weiler and Chui Man Ho have imagined another kind of Higgs particle known as the Higgs singlet, and their calculations suggest it might be the weirdest particle we've yet imagined.

Their calculations depend on M-theory, a branch of string theory that posits the existence of at least ten to eleven dimensions, the majority of which are hidden from our comprehension. Although M-theory is seriously complex and not easily summarized, for our purposes we just need to know that, in general, these hidden dimensions generally don't interact with those that we experience, although some forces such as gravity are predicted to bleed between them. Indeed, this is why some physicists predict the LHC's incredibly high energy collisions will create short-lived micro black holes, which would be remnants of the interactions with extra dimensions.

With the Higgs singlet, the idea is that it would only exist in the fifth dimension, and that means it wouldn't be bound by any of the dimensions of our universe, including time. When the Higgs singlet decays into more ordinary particles, these would be deposited back into our normal universe, but - and here's the crucial bit - they would be detected at a completely arbitrary time .

Theoretically, the LHC could create a Higgs singlet whose decay particles appeared at the exact same moment it was created, or they might not be detected for another 10,000 years (that might be a little extreme, but you get the point), or - and this is the really intriguing part - the decay particles could be detected before the singlet itself was even generated.

It's that last bit that makes the detection of the Higgs singlet a fairly easy proposition. After all, if particles are suddenly detected before any collisions are scheduled to occur, then that would be good evidence of the Higgs singlet decaying back into our universe.

The physicists freely admit that this is a seriously out there idea, and they aren't arguing that this is even remotely probable. Still, they insist it doesn't actually violate any laws of physics, and best of all, as Tom Weiler explains, we don't have to worry about time paradoxes:

"One of the attractive things about this approach to time travel is that it avoids all the big paradoxes," Weiler said. "Because time travel is limited to these special particles, it is not possible for a man to travel back in time and murder one of his parents before he himself is born, for example. However, if scientists could control the production of Higgs singlets, they might be able to send messages to the past or future."

I'm not 100% certain, but I'm pretty sure we'll be OK as long as these Higgs singlets don't have grandfathers. That seems to be the trick to paradox-free time travel.

Via Discovery News .

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Is CERN activating the world’s most powerful particle accelerator for the April 8 eclipse? No

Cern restarted its large hadron collider after a regular winter stop for maintenance. it is unrelated to the eclipse. .

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As people around the country await the April 8 total eclipse, conspiracy theories about a Switzerland-based nuclear research facility have some social media users on edge. In their view is CERN, also known as the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

“Why is CERN being reactivated on April 8, the same day as the infamous eclipse?” asked a  March 29 Facebook post , referencing what it called the group’s plan to activate “the large hadron collider” on the day of the eclipse. “My gut instinct is that something really big is being planned for that day… perhaps a total takedown of both the grid and society in general worldwide.” In  another post  April 1, a man in a baseball cap speculated that CERN is deliberately starting back up April 8 to “open up a gateway, a portal.”

large hadron collider time travel bird

(Screenshot/Facebook)

These posts were flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our  partnership with Meta , which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

It is not unusual for scientists to conduct research during an eclipse, when the sun’s corona becomes visible and areas in totality go briefly dark in the moon’s shadow.  Total solar eclipses   allow researchers “to study Earth’s atmosphere under uncommon conditions.” NASA, for example, is launching three sounding rockets on the day of the eclipse to study its effects on the ionosphere (a mission that also became a  subject of   misinformation ).

But CERN’s research is different. The primary research focus of CERN — an acronym derived from the French name “Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire” — is  particle physics , or “the study of the fundamental constituents of matter and the forces acting between them.” The organization seeks to find answers about the  universe’s fundamental structure .

CERN houses the Large Hadron Collider, the  most powerful particle accelerator in the world , which measures around 16.8 miles (27 kilometers) in circumference. The collider’s aim, as  Britannica explains , is to “understand the fundamental structure of matter by re-creating the extreme conditions that occurred in the first few moments of the universe according to the big-bang model.”

CERN spokesperson Sophie Tesauri told PolitiFact in an email that the collider’s activities have nothing to do with the April 8 eclipse.

“What we do at CERN is doing particle physics with accelerators such as the LHC, and this has little to do with astrophysics in a direct way,”  Tesauri said. “So there is no link between the solar eclipse on Monday 8th April, and what we do at CERN.”

CERN has an  accelerator complex  composed of machines with “increasingly higher energies.” A beam of particles is injected by one machine to the next one, bringing the beam to a higher energy — and the Large Hadron Collider is the last element in this complex.

“Hadrons” are a group of particles that include protons and ions. In the Large Hadron Collider,  two beams  travel in opposite directions at nearly light speed and are made to collide. In 2012, Large Hadron Collider experiments led to the discovery of the  Higgs boson particle , a particle named for British physicist Peter Higgs, who in the 1960s postulated about the existence of a particle that interacted with other particles at the beginning of time to provide them with their mass.

Tesauri told PolitiFact that the accelerator complex is restarted every year after a brief winter technical stop, when beam production ceases so that the accelerators can undergo maintenance. Restarting an accelerator like the Large Hadron Collider “requires a full commissioning process in order to check that all equipment works properly.”

“Now that all the checks have been performed, the LHC is ready to provide particle collisions to the LHC experiments, and first collisions for this year should actually happen today 5th April,” Tesauri said in her email. “This will mark the beginning of the physics run for 2024.”

The beams were initially expected to enter collision April 8, according to a  March 14 report . It said, “Depending on how work progresses, this milestone may shift forwards or backwards by a few days.”

On April 5, CERN  announced  that the Large Hadron Collider achieved its first stable beams in 2024, “marking the official start of the 2024 physics data-taking season.” The statement said that from March 8 to April 5, the Large Hadron Collider was set up to handle the beam and tested for any issues.

“Although the solar eclipse on 8 April will not affect the beams in the LHC, the gravitational pull of the moon, like the tides, changes the shape of the LHC because the machine is so big,” CERN’s announcement said. This phenomenon is not unique to an eclipse; a  2012 news release  discussed distortions in the machine brought about by a full moon.

According to CERN’s frequently asked questions page, the Large Hadron Collider is  expected to run over 20 years , “with several stops scheduled for upgrades and maintenance work.”

Conspiracy theories surrounding CERN’s work have been circulating for  years . In a statement to  Verify  fact-checkers, CERN said that its research “captures the imagination of lots of people, which is why CERN has been featured in a lot of science fiction books / even movies, around the world.” CERN said works inspired by its research are fictional and “should not be confused with the actual scientific research.”

False claims about the group’s work are so common that the organization addresses some common theories on its  FAQ page : No, it won’t “open a door to another dimension,” and no, it won’t “generate black holes in the cosmological sense.”

We rate the claim that CERN is activating its Large Hadron Collider in connection with the April 8 solar eclipse False.

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Baguette Dropped From Bird’s Beak Shuts Down The Large Hadron Collider (Really)

The Large Hadron Collider, the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, just cannot catch a break. First, a coolant leak destroyed...

By Stuart Fox | Published Nov 5, 2009 9:09 PM EST

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Re-enacted according to eyewitness accounts.

The Baguette Incident

The Large Hadron Collider, the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, just cannot catch a break. First, a coolant leak destroyed some of the magnets that guide the energy beam. Then LHC officials postponed the restart of the machine to add additional safety features. Now, a bird dropping a piece of bread on a section of the accelerator has, according to the Register , shut down the whole operation.

The bird dropped some bread on a section of outdoor machinery, eventually leading to significant over heating in parts of the accelerator. The LHC was not operational at the time of the incident, but the spike produced so much heat that had the beam been on, automatic failsafes would have shut down the machine.

This incident won’t delay the reactivation of the facility later this month , but exposes yet another vulnerability of the what might be the most complex machine ever built. With freak accident after freak accident piling up over at CERN, the idea of time traveling particles returning from the future to prevent their own discovery is beginning to seem less and less far fetched.

[via The Register ]

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Large Hadron Collider sabotaged by time travel?

Physicists theorise about why things are going so wrong

LHC - is the future giving it a good kicking?

An interesting theory has been revealed which may point to the reasons so much is going wrong with the Large Hadron Collider, and it revolves around time travel.

The New York Times has unearthed an article by physicists Holger Bech Nielsen and Masao Ninomiya that pose a number of 'timeless' questions surrounding the LHC.

The essay is titled 'Test of Effect From Future in Large Hadron Collider: a Proposal' – although we would have called it 'Run for it Marty: Doc Brown was right' – and put forward the theory that bad luck will dog the launch of the LHC, with future influences stopping the Collider from doing its job.

Interestingly, these theories were announced before the calamitous string of incidents that have postponed the LHC from finding the hallowed Higgs boson particle.

Future shock

In the article it states: "Since LHC will produce particles of a mathematically new type of fundamental scalars, ie, the Higgs particles, there is potentially a chance to find unseen effects, such as on influence going from future to past, which we suggest in the present paper."

The pair then go on to explain the effects the LHC may have on the future by way of a card game.

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Although this theory has been royally bashed in a number of science blogs , as the New York Times points out, the physicists believe it to be crazy too but: "While it is a paradox to go back in time and kill your grandfather, physicists agree there is no paradox if you go back in time and save him from being hit by a bus. In the case of the Higgs and the collider, it is as if something is going back in time to keep the universe from being hit by a bus."

Heady stuff, and while it might be total nonsense and not explain the reasons behind the LHC being broken, it does sound as if the physicists may well have cracked the barmy plot of Lost . And that can only be a good thing.

Via New York Times

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, Shortlist.com at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.

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Why the Collider Matters: In Search of the 'God Particle'

large hadron collider time travel bird

A engineer faces the world's largest superconducting solenoid magnet, one of the experiments at CERN's Large Hadron Collider

The ATLAS particle detector at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) outside Geneva is 150 ft. long, 82 ft. high, weighs 7,000 tons, and contains enough cable and wiring to wrap around Earth's equator seven times. It's a mammoth machine, designed for the delightful purpose of detecting particles so tiny, you can fit hundreds of billions of them into a beam narrower than a human hair.

The first and most important order of business is to prove (or disprove) the existence of a single particle known as the Higgs boson — a speck so precious that it has come to be called the "God particle," a reference to the theory that Higgs gives mass to all matter in the cosmos.

The significance of the God particle is as old as time itself: scientists believe that at the moment of the Big Bang, when the universe was born, there existed a moment of incandescent beauty — of perfect symmetry — in which all things and all forces were in absolute agreement. The universe's four forces — the weak force, strong force, electromagnetism and gravity — had yet to differentiate, and the tiny particles that carried those forces had yet to emerge as separate entities. As the explosion cooled and its contents scattered, complexity engulfed the universe, splitting its symmetry asunder — a cosmic parallel to Adam and Eve.

It works like this: Across the post–Big Bang universe, collections of Higgs bosons make up a pervasive Higgs field — which is theoretically where particles get mass. Moving particles through a Higgs field is like pulling a weightless pearl necklace through a jar of honey, except imagine that the honey is everywhere and the interaction is continuous. Some particles, such as photons, which are weightless particles of light, are able to cut through the sticky Higgs field without picking up mass. Other particles get bogged down, accumulating mass and becoming very heavy. Which is to say that even though the universe appears to be asymmetrical in this way, it actually is not — the Higgs field doesn't destroy nature's symmetry; it just hides it.

The way to find the Higgs boson is to create an environment that mimics the moment post–Big Bang. The powerful LHC runs at up to 7 trillion electron volts (TeV) and sends particles through temperatures colder than deep space at velocities approaching the speed of light. (The second most powerful particle accelerator, at Fermilab in Illinois, runs at 1 TeV.) The added juice allows scientists to get closer to the high energy that existed after the Big Bang. And high energies are needed, because the Higgs is thought to be quite heavy. (In Einstein's famous equation E=MC 2 , C represents the speed of light, which is constant; so in order to find high-mass particles, or M, you need high energies, E.) It's possible, of course, that even at such high energies, the Higgs boson will not be found. It may not exist.

But if it does exist, the Higgs would help plug a hole in the so-called Standard Model — the far-reaching set of equations that incorporates all that is known about the interaction of subatomic particles and is the closest thing physicists have to a testable "theory of everything." But many theoreticians feel that even if the Higgs boson exists, the Standard Model is unsatisfactory; for instance, it is unable to explain the presence of gravity, or the existence of something called "dark matter," which prevents spiral galaxies like our Milky Way from falling apart. Even the mighty Higgs cannot explain those mysteries — though through telescopes and observation, we know they exist.

Out on the cusp of human knowledge, particle physics can seem esoteric indeed. But the LHC's findings may have implications that go beyond pure science. CERN, a pan-European project dedicated to peaceful nuclear research, was founded in the late 1940s as a sort of atonement for the legacies of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and two wars during which Europeans slaughtered one another by the millions — many of CERN's elder scientists vividly remember the instability, randomness and despair that characterized that era.

If scientists at CERN are able to locate the Higgs particle in the early years of this new century, it would shore up the basic scientific tenet that what exists at the very foundations of our universe is beauty and unity. It's something to continue to strive for, at least.

The Large Hadron Collider: A time machine?

A new theory suggests the Big Bang machine could be used to send a special kind of particle back in time

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The Large Hadron Collider is a giant particle accelerator in Switzerland that scientists use to study matter... and may one day be a tool for time travel.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was built to replicate the conditions at the Big Bang, and answer humanity's most basic questions — what are we made of and how did we come to exist? Scientists are still working on that, but have stumbled across something that promises to be even more exciting: The possibility of time travel. Here, an instant guide:

What is the Large Hadron Collider, again?

It's a 17-mile-long particle accelerator built deep underground in Geneva, Switzerland. Scientists hope to use it to discover the Higgs boson, or the "God particle." This mysterious subatomic particle is the piece of the atom that supposedly endows all other bits of matter with mass. If scientists are able to study the Higgs boson, they may discover how matter was produced — in other words, the secret of our existence.

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So how could it be used for time travel?

Here's where it gets complicated. If the LHC does manage to produce a Higgs boson, some theorize it will also create a particle known as the Higgs singlet. The singlet, the theory goes, would be able to travel in and out of the hidden fifth dimension and pop out at any point along the space-time continuum.

Wait, fifth dimension? How many dimensions are there?

According to M-theory, or the so-called "theory of everything," there are as many as 11 dimensions, of which our universe only uses four. But the Higgs singlet, if it exists, is theoretically not restrained by the basic laws of physics that govern our universe.

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Is it time to break out the DeLorean?

No. According to this theory, it will never be possible for a man (or a 1980s sports car) to travel through time. And besides, the LHC hasn't even located the Higgs boson yet, let alone the Higgs singlet. But, "if scientists could control the production of Higgs singlets," says physicist Tom Weiler of Vanderbilt University , "they might be able to send messages to the past or future."

Haven't people had time travel theories about the LHC before?

Yes. You may remember the development of the LHC was plagued with near-constant malfunctions and long delays. Two physicists came up with the theory in October 2009 that the Higgs boson is "so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one." No less a figure than God, said the scientists, is preventing us from discovering the elusive particle.

That sounds far-fetched. They got the LHC working eventually, didn't they?

They did. But even though the LHC is now up and running, it still hasn't found a Higgs boson. And God does move in mysterious ways...

Sources : Discovery ( 2 ), New York Times , DVICE , Science Blogs , Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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Man arrested at Large Hadron Collider claims he's from the future (April Fools!)

Eloi Cole, a strangely dressed young man, said that he had travelled back in time to prevent the LHC from destroying the world.

large hadron collider time travel bird

A would-be saboteur arrested today at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland made the bizarre claim that he was from the future. Eloi Cole, a strangely dressed young man, said that he had travelled back in time to prevent the LHC from destroying the world.

The LHC successfully collided particles at record force earlier this week, a milestone Mr Cole was attempting to disrupt by stopping supplies of Mountain Dew to the experiment's vending machines. He also claimed responsibility for the infamous baguette sabotage in November last year.

Mr Cole was seized by Swiss police after CERN security guards spotted him rooting around in bins. He explained that he was looking for fuel for his 'time machine power unit', a device that resembled a kitchen blender.

Police said Mr Cole, who was wearing a bow tie and rather too much tweed for his age, would not reveal his country of origin. "Countries do not exist where I am from. The discovery of the Higgs boson led to limitless power, the elimination of poverty and Kit-Kats for everyone. It is a communist chocolate hellhole and I'm here to stop it ever happening."

This isn't the first time time-travel has been blamed for mishaps at the LHC. Last year, the Japanese physicist Masao Ninomiya and Danish string-theory pioneer Holger Bech Nielsen put forward the hypothesis that the Higgs boson was so "abhorrent" that it somehow caused a ripple in time that prevented its own discovery.

Professor Brian Cox, a CERN physicist and full-time rock'n'roll TV scientist, was sympathetic to Mr Cole. "Bless him, he sounds harmless enough. At least he didn't mention bloody black holes ."

Mr Cole was taken to a secure mental health facility in Geneva but later disappeared from his cell. Police are baffled, but not that bothered.

  • Also read: Everything you need to know about the Large Hadron Collider, CERN and the Higgs boson

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No, CERN won't open a portal during the April 8 eclipse. That'd be impossible | Fact check

large hadron collider time travel bird

The claim: CERN will start up April 8 to open a portal during the eclipse

An April 1 Facebook post ( direct link , archive link ) shows a man telling viewers about his visit to the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, and what he thinks the organization will do on April 8.

“They’re going to open up and start using CERN and testing it the day of the eclipse,” he said. “Here’s what I think is going on. They, the powers that be, are opening up CERN in coordination with the eclipse, to open up a gateway, a portal.”

The post was shared more than 1,000 times in four days.

Fact check roundup:   2024 eclipse one of many reasons flat Earth claims are nonsense

More from the Fact-Check Team: How we pick and research claims | Email newsletter | Facebook page

Our rating: False

The post is wrong about both the timing and the nature of CERN's work. CERN's equipment began operating in March, a month before the eclipse, and the technology is nowhere near strong enough to open a portal or a black hole.

CERN’s collider was restarted in March after a winter break

On April 8, people across 13 states will see a total solar eclipse , when the moon passes directly between the Earth and the sun. But CERN’s technology has nothing to do with the astronomical phenomenon.

CERN uses its Large Hadron Collider to study matter and is responsible for finding the Higgs boson particle , or God particle. ​​Scientists say the finding helps explain the Big Bang theory and how the universe was formed.

Sophie Tesauri , a spokesperson for CERN, told USA TODAY there is no link between what CERN does and the upcoming eclipse. 

“What we do at CERN is doing particle physics with accelerators such as the (Large Hadron Collider), and this has little to do with astrophysics in a direct way,” Tesauri said.

And CERN couldn't create a portal even if it wanted to , Dejan Stojkovic, a physics professor at the University at Buffalo, previously told USA TODAY .

"To create a black hole or a wormhole, even microscopic ones, with our current technology, in the context of our standard theories of gravity, we need an accelerator as big as the whole universe," Stojkovic said. "So there is no chance whatsoever to create such a portal at the (Large Hadron Collider)."

The claim is also wrong about the timing of CERN's testing.

Each year after a brief winter technical stop, CERN restarts its accelerator complex and the collider, Tesauri said. This year it was restarted on March 8 – a full month before the eclipse.

Fact check : A 'sex magic ritual'? No, NASA rockets are to study atmosphere during eclipse

USA TODAY has debunked other false eclipse claims, including assertions that the rockets NASA will launch during the event are part of a "sex magic ritual," that the eclipse is manufactured and that it will cause days of darkness .

USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook user who shared the post for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

Our fact-check sources:

  • Sophie Tesauri , April 5, Email exchange with USA TODAY
  • CERN, March 14, Accelerator Report: Beams are circulating in the LHC
  • CERN, April 4, About page
  • Space.com, Aug. 29, 2023, Higgs boson: The 'God Particle' explained
  • USA TODAY, July 26, Fact check: Scientists at CERN are not opening a 'portal to hell'

Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or e-newspaper here .

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Science News

A new era of physics at the large hadron collider.

By Lisa Randall

February 25, 2011 at 6:02 pm

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Last month in Washington, D.C., at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, theoretical physicist Lisa Randall of Harvard University spoke about her hopes for the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s most powerful particle accelerator. She sat down with Science News physical sciences writer Devin Powell after her February 19 talk to discuss what evidence the European collider, which is expected to operate at half power through 2012, might provide for her groundbreaking theories and for the Higgs mechanism, a process that would explain why particles have mass.

large hadron collider time travel bird

You’ve said that physics is entering a “new era.” What do you mean by that? At the high energies of the LHC, you’re getting very precise, and you’re getting to, in some sense, simpler systems where you can see the more basic and more fundamental rules of physics going on.… Studying higher energies is the same as studying smaller scales. We have this target scale, the weak energy scale that the LHC is exploring — that is to say, the scale at which we know particles are somehow acquiring mass associated with the Higgs mechanism.

Explain the theory that you and Raman Sundrum developed to resolve the “hierarchy problem,” namely that gravity is much weaker than quantum physics would predict.  The scenario we had in mind is that some stuff is stuck on an object called a brane, which exists in three dimensions, but there can be an extra dimension of space where gravity can be concentrated away from us. That would explain why gravity is so weak for us.… By an extra dimension, I really do mean another dimension beyond the three we’re familiar with: left-right, up-down and top-bottom. These extra dimensions are hidden somehow and part of the question is: Why are they hidden? They could be small or very warped.

What would you be most excited to see in the LHC’s detectors? It would be extremely exciting if they saw evidence for our theory, which would consist of a particle that is called the Kaluza-Klein partner of the graviton. You’d see something that looks like a graviton, which communicates gravity, but it would really be from an extra dimension. 

If the LHC finds a Kaluza-Klein particle, what does that mean for the Higgs mechanism and string theory? The Higgs could be there whether or not there are extra dimensions. If we found the Kaluza-Klein particle, it would be a nice target for string theory. When we first wrote down this theory, string theorists told us, “Oh, that’s very nice, but it doesn’t happen in string theory.” Actually they didn’t even say it was very nice. But a year later they found it in string theory. The energy of the Kaluza-Klein particle is much too low to prove or disprove string theory, but it gives you different ways to think about what the possibilities are in string theory. If this warped geometry exists, they’d have to say it’s part of whatever model comes out of string theory.

Could the LHC find a Kaluza-Klein particle before reaching full power? We know roughly the energy of this thing. It could be that it’s an energy a little higher than the LHC. It could be that it’s the energy of the LHC. It probably won’t be the energies that they’re exploring now, and it probably won’t happen — if it happens — until they get to the higher energies.

What would the physics community be most surprised to see in the LHC data? Something we haven’t thought of. If they don’t see anything, of course, there’s going to be a long period where we have to see: Are they not seeing anything because of experimental deficiencies, or are they not seeing anything because there’s really nothing there? We really do expect there to be something there playing the role of the Higgs boson … but one of the things you find as a theorist when you work out the details is that there could be a lot of stuff there that we just miss.

If you could design a machine to test your ideas, how would it look?

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The Collider, the Particle and a Theory About Fate

large hadron collider time travel bird

By Dennis Overbye

  • Oct. 12, 2009

More than a year after an explosion of sparks, soot and frigid helium shut it down, the world’s biggest and most expensive physics experiment, known as the Large Hadron Collider, is poised to start up again. In December, if all goes well, protons will start smashing together in an underground racetrack outside Geneva in a search for forces and particles that reigned during the first trillionth of a second of the Big Bang.

Then it will be time to test one of the most bizarre and revolutionary theories in science. I’m not talking about extra dimensions of space-time, dark matter or even black holes that eat the Earth. No, I’m talking about the notion that the troubled collider is being sabotaged by its own future. A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one, like a time traveler who goes back in time to kill his grandfather.

Holger Bech Nielsen, of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, and Masao Ninomiya of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in Kyoto, Japan, put this idea forward in a series of papers with titles like “Test of Effect From Future in Large Hadron Collider: a Proposal” and “Search for Future Influence From LHC,” posted on the physics Web site arXiv.org in the last year and a half.

According to the so-called Standard Model that rules almost all physics, the Higgs is responsible for imbuing other elementary particles with mass.

“It must be our prediction that all Higgs producing machines shall have bad luck,” Dr. Nielsen said in an e-mail message. In an unpublished essay, Dr. Nielson said of the theory, “Well, one could even almost say that we have a model for God.” It is their guess, he went on, “that He rather hates Higgs particles, and attempts to avoid them.”

This malign influence from the future, they argue, could explain why the United States Superconducting Supercollider, also designed to find the Higgs, was canceled in 1993 after billions of dollars had already been spent, an event so unlikely that Dr. Nielsen calls it an “anti-miracle.”

You might think that the appearance of this theory is further proof that people have had ample time — perhaps too much time — to think about what will come out of the collider, which has been 15 years and $9 billion in the making.

The collider was built by CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, to accelerate protons to energies of seven trillion electron volts around an 18-mile underground racetrack and then crash them together into primordial fireballs.

For the record, as of the middle of September, CERN engineers hope to begin to collide protons at the so-called injection energy of 450 billion electron volts in December and then ramp up the energy until the protons have 3.5 trillion electron volts of energy apiece and then, after a short Christmas break, real physics can begin.

Dr. Nielsen and Dr. Ninomiya started laying out their case for doom in the spring of 2008. It was later that fall, of course, after the CERN collider was turned on, that a connection between two magnets vaporized, shutting down the collider for more than a year.

Dr. Nielsen called that “a funny thing that could make us to believe in the theory of ours.”

He agreed that skepticism would be in order. After all, most big science projects, including the Hubble Space Telescope, have gone through a period of seeming jinxed. At CERN, the beat goes on: Last weekend the French police arrested a particle physicist who works on one of the collider experiments, on suspicion of conspiracy with a North African wing of Al Qaeda.

Dr. Nielsen and Dr. Ninomiya have proposed a kind of test: that CERN engage in a game of chance, a “card-drawing” exercise using perhaps a random-number generator, in order to discern bad luck from the future. If the outcome was sufficiently unlikely, say drawing the one spade in a deck with 100 million hearts, the machine would either not run at all, or only at low energies unlikely to find the Higgs.

Sure, it’s crazy, and CERN should not and is not about to mortgage its investment to a coin toss. The theory was greeted on some blogs with comparisons to Harry Potter. But craziness has a fine history in a physics that talks routinely about cats being dead and alive at the same time and about anti-gravity puffing out the universe.

As Niels Bohr, Dr. Nielsen’s late countryman and one of the founders of quantum theory, once told a colleague: “We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question that divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct.”

Dr. Nielsen is well-qualified in this tradition. He is known in physics as one of the founders of string theory and a deep and original thinker, “one of those extremely smart people that is willing to chase crazy ideas pretty far,” in the words of Sean Carroll, a Caltech physicist and author of a coming book about time, “From Eternity to Here.”

Another of Dr. Nielsen’s projects is an effort to show how the universe as we know it, with all its apparent regularity, could arise from pure randomness, a subject he calls “random dynamics.”

Dr. Nielsen admits that he and Dr. Ninomiya’s new theory smacks of time travel, a longtime interest, which has become a respectable research subject in recent years. While it is a paradox to go back in time and kill your grandfather, physicists agree there is no paradox if you go back in time and save him from being hit by a bus. In the case of the Higgs and the collider, it is as if something is going back in time to keep the universe from being hit by a bus. Although just why the Higgs would be a catastrophe is not clear. If we knew, presumably, we wouldn’t be trying to make one.

We always assume that the past influences the future. But that is not necessarily true in the physics of Newton or Einstein. According to physicists, all you really need to know, mathematically, to describe what happens to an apple or the 100 billion galaxies of the universe over all time are the laws that describe how things change and a statement of where things start. The latter are the so-called boundary conditions — the apple five feet over your head, or the Big Bang.

The equations work just as well, Dr. Nielsen and others point out, if the boundary conditions specify a condition in the future (the apple on your head) instead of in the past, as long as the fundamental laws of physics are reversible, which most physicists believe they are.

“For those of us who believe in physics,” Einstein once wrote to a friend, “this separation between past, present and future is only an illusion.”

In Kurt Vonnegut’s novel “Sirens of Titan,” all of human history turns out to be reduced to delivering a piece of metal roughly the size and shape of a beer-can opener to an alien marooned on Saturn’s moon so he can repair his spaceship and go home.

Whether the collider has such a noble or humble fate — or any fate at all — remains to be seen. As a Red Sox fan my entire adult life, I feel I know something about jinxes.

To revisit this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories .

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Is the Large Hadron Collider Killing Its Own Grandfather?

lhc

If you've read about all the troubles scientists at CERN in Europe have been having getting the Large Hadron Collider to work, you must have had the same sort of thought about the failures as some such scientists have: Obviously, a time travel paradox is to blame.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) first went online September 10 of last year amid much hullabaloo about the possibility it could have some... unfortunate repercussions . It promptly went offline nine days later, and has since given the CERN folks a great deal of trouble getting it back on its supercolliding feet. It is scheduled to be brought back online next month, but in the meantime, many theories have sprung up to explain the various failures.

One of these theories is that the Higgs boson has traveled back in time to prevent its own creation. This is not a joke, though you could easily be forgiven for thinking so. Two respectable physicists have published papers on the possibility, and they have even come up with a test they say will determine whether or not they're right. One might argue, of course, that if the Higgs boson is crafty enough to kill its own grandfather, as it were , it would also cover its tracks.

Of course, other respectable scientists think this idea is... well, as ridiculous as it sounds. If the LHC fails yet again, though, you can be sure more people will start subscribing to this theory. The great physicist Niels Bohr once reportedly said "We all agree your theory is crazy. The question is whether it’s crazy enough to have a chance of being correct."

As a parent, I do advise that it might not be a good idea to let your kids read about this Douglas Adams-esque idea. I can just picture my kids saying "Daddy, it's not my fault! The Higgs boson went back in time and made me get a bad grade on my math test!" And how do you respond to that?

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  • NEWS FEATURE
  • 25 May 2022

How the revamped Large Hadron Collider will hunt for new physics

  • Elizabeth Gibney

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Detectors at the ALICE experiment were revamped during the Large Hadron Collider’s 2018–22 shutdown. Credit: Maximilien Brice, Julien Marius Ordan/CERN

The hunt for new physics is back on. The world’s most powerful machine for smashing high-energy particles together, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), has fired up after a shutdown of more than three years. Beams of protons are once again whizzing around its 27-kilometre loop at CERN, Europe’s particle-physics laboratory near Geneva. By July, physicists will be able to switch on their experiments and watch bunches of particles collide.

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The Large Hadron Collider: Inside CERN's atom smasher

The Large Hadron Collider is the world's biggest particle accelerator.

The Large Hadron Collider occupies a circular underground tunnel nearly 17 miles (27 kilometers) in circumference.

  • What is the LHC?
  • LHC discoveries and history

Run 3: What to expect

  • How does the LHC work?
  • LHC experiments

LHC and the Higgs boson

Cern's many experiments, beyond the large hadron collider, q&a with cern scientist clara nellist, additional resources, bibliography.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the biggest and most powerful particle accelerator in the world. It is located at the European particle physics laboratory CERN, in Switzerland. 

The LHC restarted on April 22, 2022, after three years of maintenance work and upgrades. Run 3 is expected to commence on July, 5, a day after the 10-year anniversary of the Higgs boson discovery.

Scientists use the LHC to test theoretical predictions in particle physics, particularly those associated with the "Standard Model". While the Standard Model can explain almost all results in particle physics there are some questions left unanswered such as what is dark matter and dark energy ? Why is there more matter than antimatter? The LHC is designed to help answer such questions. 

The LHC can reproduce the conditions that existed within a billionth of a second of the Big Bang . The colossal accelerator allows scientists to collide high-energy subatomic particles in a controlled environment and observe the interactions. One of the most significant LHC breakthroughs came in 2012 with the discovery of the Higgs Boson. 

Related: The Higgs boson could have kept our universe from collapsing  

If you see a news headline about exotic new subatomic particles, the chances are the discovery was made at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, located near Geneva in Switzerland. 

A recent example occurred in January 2022, when CERN scientists announced " evidence of X particles in the quark-gluon plasma produced in the Large Hadron Collider." Hiding behind that technospeak is the eye-popping fact that CERN succeeded in recreating a situation that hasn't occurred naturally since a few microseconds after the Big Bang. 

When Run 3 commences we can expect a whole new spate of discoveries, so it's a good time to take a closer look at what makes the LHC — and the rest of CERN — so unique.

What is the Large Hadron Collider?

The LHC is a particle accelerator — a device that boosts subatomic particles to enormous energies in a controlled way so that scientists can study the resulting interactions, according to the CERN LHC fact sheet . The 'large' that the L stands for is an understatement; the LHC is by far the biggest accelerator in the world right now, occupying a circular tunnel nearly 17 miles (27 kilometers) in circumference. The middle letter, H, stands for 'hadron', the generic name for composite LHC particles such as protons that are made up of smaller particles called quarks. Finally, the C stands for 'collider' — the LHC accelerates two particle beams in opposite directions, and all the action takes place when the beams collide. 

Like all physics experiments, the LHC aims to test theoretical predictions — in this case, the so-called Standard Model of particle physics — and see if there are any holes in them. As strange as it sounds, physicists are itching to find a few holes in the Standard Model because there are some things, such as dark matter and dark energy, that can't be explained until they do. 

Large Hadron Collider discoveries and history

The LHC smashes particles together at high speeds, creating a cascade of new particles, including the infamous Higgs boson.

The LHC's biggest moment came in 2012 with the discovery of the Higgs boson . Although widely referred to as the "God particle", it's not really as awesome in itself as that name might suggest. Its huge significance came from the fact that it was the last prediction of the Standard Model that hadn't yet been proven. But the Higgs boson is far from being the LHC's only discovery. 

According to the physics magazine CERN Courier , the LHC has also found around 60 previously unknown hadrons, which are complex particles made up of various combinations of quarks. Even so, all those new particles still lie within the bounds of the Standard Model, which the LHC has struggled to move beyond , much to the disappointment of the numerous scientists who have spent their careers working on alternative theories. 

Related: 10 mind-boggling things you should know about quantum physics

The first tantalizing hints that a breakthrough might be just around the corner came in 2021 when analysis of LHC data revealed patterns of behavior that indicated small but definite departures from the Standard Model. 

According to CERN, the LHC opened for business in 2009, but CERN's history goes back much further than that. The organization was established in 1954 following a recommendation by the European Council for Nuclear Research — or Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire in French, from which it gets its name. Between its creation and the opening of the LHC, CERN was responsible for a series of groundbreaking discoveries, including weak neutral currents, light neutrinos and the W and Z bosons. As soon as the LHC is back up and running, we can expect discoveries to continue. 

As the name suggests, Run 3 is the third science run of the LHC and will begin on July 5, 2022. It will build on LHC's discoveries made during its Run 1 (2009-2013) and Run 2 (2015 to 2018) and perform experiments through 2024. 

On the precipice of new physics, scientists are keen to make use of the LHC's new upgrades to investigate the Higgs boson, explore dark matter and potentially expand our understanding of the standard model, the leading theory describing all known fundamental forces and elementary particles in the universe.

With the new upgrades, CERN has increased the power of the LHC's injectors, which feed beams of accelerated particles into the collider. At the time of the previous shutdown in 2018, the collider could accelerate beams up to an energy of 6.5 teraelectronvolts, and that value has been raised to 6.8 teraelectronvolts, according to a statement from CERN .

For reference, a single teraelectronvolt is equivalent to 1 trillion electron volts (an electron volt, a unit of energy, is equivalent to the work done on an electron accelerating through the potential of one volt.)

To increase the energy of the proton beams to such an extreme level, "the thousands of superconducting magnets, whose fields direct the beams around their trajectory, need to grow accustomed to much stronger currents after a long period of inactivity during LS2 ," the same CERN statement read. Getting the equipment up to speed in this upgrade is a process that CERN calls "magnet training" and which is made up of about 12,000 individual tests.

With LHC's magnets "trained" and the proton beams more powerful than ever, the LHC will be able to create collisions at higher energies than ever before, expanding the possibilities for what scientists using the upgraded equipment might find.

Once Run 3 concludes in 2024, CERN scientists will shut it down for another planned overhaul that will include more upgrades for the massive particle accelerator. Once complete, those upgrades will allow scientists to rename LHC the "High Luminosity Large Hadron Collider" once it reopens in 2028.

How does the Large Hadron Collider work?

The Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) pictured here can capture images of particles up to 40 million times per second.

As huge as it is, the LHC can't function without the help of other machines around it. Before particles, which are usually protons but for some experiments are much heavier lead ions, are injected into it, they're passed through a chain of smaller accelerators that progressively boost their speed, according to a CERN LHC report . Smaller is just a relative term; the last step in the injector chain, the Super Proton Synchrotron, is almost 4.3 miles in circumference (6.9 km). The result is two beams traveling in opposite directions around the LHC at virtually the speed of light , according to CERN . 

The beams are kept on their circular trajectories by a strong magnetic field, which has the effect of bending the path of electrically charged particles. At four points around the LHC's vast ring, the opposing beams are brought together and made to collide, and that's where all the science happens. 

 – Phantom energy and dark gravity: Explaining the dark side of the universe

– Dark stars: The first stars in the universe

– Tachyons: Facts about these faster-than-light particles  

Particles are smashed together with such enormous energies that the collisions create a cascade of new particles — most of them extremely short-lived. The important thing for scientists is to work out what all these particles are, and that's not an easy task. 

The LHC has an array of sophisticated particle detectors for this purpose, each made up of layers of subdetectors designed to measure certain particle properties or to look for specific types of particles. For example, calorimeters measure a particle's energy, while the curving track of a particle in a magnetic field reveals information about its electric charge and momentum.

Two of the four collision points around the circumference of the LHC are occupied by large general-purpose detectors. These include the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) , which can be thought of as a giant 3D camera, snapping images of particles up to 40 million times per second. 

The paths of the particles inside the detector are controlled by a gigantic electromagnet called a solenoid. Despite weighing 12,500 metric tons, it's quite compact, as the detector's name suggests. That middle word, muon, refers to an elusive particle similar to the electron but much more massive, which requires its array of subdetectors wrapped around the solenoid. 

The LHC's other general-purpose detector, ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus) , has an identical purpose to CMS but differs in the design of its detection, subsystems and magnets. It's also less compact than CMS, occupying a greater volume than any other particle detector ever built.  

Large Hadron Collider experiments

The ATLAS detector (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus) is one of the LHC’s general-purpose detectors.

Many of the LHC's most important experiments, including the discovery of the Higgs boson, utilize the general-purpose detectors ATLAS and CMS. But it also has several other more specialized detectors that can be used in specific types of experiments. 

The LHC forward (LHCf) detector , located close to the ATLAS interaction point, uses particles thrown forward in collisions as a means of simulating cosmic rays under laboratory conditions. Further, along the beam trajectory is the Forward Search Experiment (FASER) , designed to look for light, weakly interacting particles that are likely to elude the larger detectors. 

A third experiment optimized for the forward direction is Total Elastic and diffractive cross-section Measurement (TOTEM) , located near the CMS interaction point, which focuses on the physics of the high-energy protons themselves. 

Away from ATLAS and CMS, the LHC has two other interaction points. One is occupied by A Large Ion Collider Experiment (ALICE) , a specialized detector for heavy-ion physics. The final interaction point is home to two experiments on the very cutting edge of physics: LHCb , devoted to the physics of the exotic 'beauty quark', and MoEDAL — the Monopole and Exotics Detector at the LHC. 

According to CERN, when physicists come up with new theories, they always try to make sure they can be tested experimentally. That happened in the early 1960s when Peter Higgs and others developed a theory to explain why certain force-carrier particles have non-zero mass. 

The theory predicted the existence of a previously unsuspected particle, dubbed the Higgs boson. The next step was to find the Higgs boson and thus validate the theory. As simple as that sounds, it led to a decades-long hunt around the world. The end finally came in 2012, when data from the LHC — specifically, from a combination of ATLAS and CMS measurements — proved beyond doubt that the Higgs boson had been discovered.

Scientists are still trying to figure out why the universe contains more matter than antimatter.

One of the key mysteries of the universe is the striking asymmetry between matter and antimatter — why it contains so much more of the former than the latter. According to the Big Bang theory, the universe must have started with equal amounts of both. Yet very early on, probably within the first second, virtually all the antimatter had disappeared, and only the normal matter we see today was left. This asymmetry has been given the technical name 'CP violation', and studying it is one of the main aims of the Large Hadron Collider's LHCb experiment. 

All hadrons are made up of quarks, but LHCb is designed to detect particles that include a particularly rare type of quark known as 'beauty'. Studying CP violation in beauty-containing particles is one of the most promising ways to shed light on the emergence of matter-antimatter asymmetry in the early universe.

Hunting exotic particles

Sharing the same underground cavern as LHCb is a smaller instrument called MoEDAL, which stands for "Monopole and Exotics Detector at the LHC". While most CERN experiments are designed to study known particles, this one is aimed at discovering hitherto unknown ones that lie outside the present Standard Model. A monopole, for example, would be a magnetized particle consisting only of a north pole without a south one, or vice versa. Such particles have long been hypothesized, but never observed. 

The purpose of MoEDAL is to look out for any monopoles that might be created in collisions inside the LHC. It could also potentially detect certain "stable massive particles" that are predicted by theories beyond the Standard Model. If it's successful in finding any of these particles, MoEDAL could help to resolve fundamental questions such as the existence of other dimensions or the nature of dark matter.

Climate science

Away from the LHC, there are other facilities at CERN that are doing equally important research. Linking particle physics to climate science may not be an obvious step, yet that's what one experiment is doing at CERN's Proton Synchrotron. This is a smaller and less sophisticated accelerator than the LHC, but it's still capable of doing useful work. 

The climate experiment is called CLOUD, which gives a strong hint of what it's about, although the name stands for Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets . Earth is under constant bombardment by cosmic rays, and it's been theorized that these play a role in cloud formation by seeding tiny water droplets. It isn't an easy process to study in the real atmosphere with real cosmic rays, so CERN is creating its own cosmic rays with the accelerator. These are then fired into an artificial atmosphere, where their effects can be studied much more closely. 

Making antimatter

Antimatter often pops into existence inside CERN’s high-energy accelerators, as one-half of a particle-antiparticle pair. But in the usual course of events, the antiparticles don’t last long before they’re annihilated in collisions with ordinary particles.

If you want to create antimatter that stays around long enough for detailed study, you need more than just an accelerator. This is where CERN's unique “antimatter factory” comes in. It takes antiparticles created in the Proton Synchrotron and slows them down to manageable speeds in what is effectively the exact opposite of a particle accelerator: the Antiproton Decelerator. The resulting "anti-atoms" can then be studied by a range of instruments such as AEGIS (Antihydrogen Experiment: Gravity, Interferometry and Spectroscopy). 

One question that AEGIS should be able to answer soon is the fascinating one of whether antimatter falls downwards in a gravitational field, like ordinary matter, or upwards in the opposite direction.

Is the Large Hadron Collider dangerous?

The LHC is sometimes referred to as “high energy” physics but it’s only high energy on a subatomic level.

For various reasons over the years, people have speculated that experiments at CERN might pose a danger to the public. Fortunately, such worries are groundless. Take for example the N in CERN, which stands for "nuclear", according to UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). This has nothing to do with the reactions that take place inside nuclear weapons, which involve swapping protons and neutrons inside nuclei. 

CERN's research is at an even lower level than this, in the constituents of the protons and neutrons themselves. It's sometimes referred to as "high energy" physics, but the energies are only "high" when viewed on a subatomic scale. Particles inside the LHC, for example, typically only have the energy of a mosquito, according to the LHC Safety Assessment Group 's safety report.

People have also worried that the LHC might produce a "mini black hole," but even if this happened — which is unlikely — it would be unbelievably tiny, and so unstable that it would vanish within a fraction of a second according to the safety report. report.

Over 12 years after it entered service, the LHC is still the world's biggest and most powerful particle accelerator. But it won't hold that record forever. Several countries have plans to go a step further, including China's Circular Electron Positron Collider and the International Linear Collider in Japan.

Europe's proposal is the Future Circular Collider (FCC), to be built near the LHC at CERN but dwarfing it in size. Though not yet financially approved — the estimated cost is £20 billion ($27 billion) — the design is well advanced according to Physics World . 

The FCC would be 62 miles (99 km) in circumference and sit alongside the LHC, which it would use as a particle injector, ultimately achieving energies seven times greater than its predecessor.

Dr Clara Nellist (@ParticleClara on TikTok) standing next to the ATLAS detector at CERN.

Dr. Nellist works on the Large Hadron Collider's ATLAS experiment at CERN.

We discuss what it's like to work with the world's largest particle accelerator. 

How did you come to be involved with the ATLAS experiment?

I started on ATLAS for my PhD research. I was developing new pixel sensors to improve the measurement of particles as they pass through our detector. It's really important to make them resistant to radiation damage, which is a big concern when you put the sensors close to the particle collisions. Since then, I've had the opportunity to work on a number of different projects, such as understanding how the Higgs boson and the top quark interact with each other. Now I'm applying machine learning algorithms to our data to look for hints of dark matter. One of the biggest mysteries in physics right now is, what is 85% of the matter in our universe? We call it dark matter, but we don't actually know much about it! 

What's it like working with such a unique and powerful machine? 

It's really amazing to be able to work on this incredibly complicated machine with people from all over the world. No one person can run it all, so each team becomes an expert on their specific part. When we all work together, we can make discoveries about the smallest building blocks of our universe. 

Are there any exciting new developments you're particularly looking forward to? 

We're starting the Large Hadron Collider up again this year, so I'm really excited to see what we might find with it. Part of our work is to understand the particles we already know about in as much detail as possible to check that our theories match what we measure. But we're also looking for brand-new particles that we've never seen before. If we find something new, it could be a candidate for dark matter, or it could be something completely unexpected.

You can take a virtual tour of the Large Hadron Collider with the European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN), which gives you a 360-degree look inside the collider. You can also view the status of the Large Hadron Collider in real-time with CERN's Vistar tool . Learn about what particle accelerators have done for us in this interesting article from Physics World. There are many particle accelerators all around the world, for a comprehensive list of examples, check out this resource from the Physics Institute of the University of Bonn , Germany. 

  • Sirunyan, A. M., et al. " Evidence for X (3872) in Pb-Pb Collisions and Studies of its Prompt Production at s N N= 5.02 TeV. " Physical Review Letters 128.3 (2022): 032001. 
  • Aaij, Roel, et al. " Test of lepton universality in beauty-quark decays. " arXiv preprint arXiv:2103.11769 (2021). 
  • LHC Safety Assessment Group " Review of the Safety of LHC Collisions ". 
  • LHC Safety Assessment Group " Review of the Safety of LHC Collisions Addendum on strangelets ". June 2008. 
  • Giddings, Steven B., and Michelangelo L. Mangano. " Astrophysical implications of hypothetical stable TeV-scale black holes. " Physical Review D 78.3 (2008): 035009. 
  • Aad, Georges, et al. " The ATLAS experiment at the CERN large hadron collider. " Journal of instrumentation 3.S08003 (2008). 
  • Dimopoulos, Savas, and Greg Landsberg. " Black holes at the large hadron collider. " Physical Review Letters 87.16 (2001): 161602. 

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Andrew May

Andrew May holds a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Manchester University, U.K. For 30 years, he worked in the academic, government and private sectors, before becoming a science writer where he has written for Fortean Times, How It Works, All About Space, BBC Science Focus, among others. He has also written a selection of books including Cosmic Impact and Astrobiology: The Search for Life Elsewhere in the Universe, published by Icon Books.

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Loreben Tuquero

Is CERN activating the world’s most powerful particle accelerator for the April 8 eclipse? No

If your time is short.

CERN, or the European Organization for Nuclear Research, restarted its Large Hadron Collider after a regular winter stop for maintenance. CERN is not reactivating the accelerator in connection with the April 8 eclipse.

CERN houses the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, which facilitates experiments to understand matter’s fundamental structure. 

Learn more about PolitiFact’s fact-checking process and rating system.

As people around the country await the April 8 total eclipse, conspiracy theories about a Switzerland-based nuclear research facility have some social media users on edge. In their view is CERN, also known as the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

"Why is CERN being reactivated on April 8, the same day as the infamous eclipse?" asked a March 29 Facebook post , referencing what it called the group’s plan to activate "the large hadron collider" on the day of the eclipse. "My gut instinct is that something really big is being planned for that day… perhaps a total takedown of both the grid and society in general worldwide." In another post April 1, a man in a baseball cap speculated that CERN is deliberately starting back up April 8 to "open up a gateway, a portal."

large hadron collider time travel bird

(Screenshot from Facebook)

These posts were flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta , which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

It is not unusual for scientists to conduct research during an eclipse, when the sun’s corona becomes visible and areas in totality go briefly dark in the moon’s shadow. Total solar eclipses   allow researchers "to study Earth’s atmosphere under uncommon conditions." NASA, for example, is launching three sounding rockets on the day of the eclipse to study its effects on the ionosphere (a mission that also became a subject of misinformation ).

But CERN’s research is different. The primary research focus of CERN — an acronym derived from the French name "Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire" — is particle physics , or "the study of the fundamental constituents of matter and the forces acting between them." The organization seeks to find answers about the universe’s fundamental structure .

CERN houses the Large Hadron Collider, the most powerful particle accelerator in the world , which measures around 16.8 miles (27 kilometers) in circumference. The collider’s aim, as Britannica explains , is to "understand the fundamental structure of matter by re-creating the extreme conditions that occurred in the first few moments of the universe according to the big-bang model."

CERN spokesperson Sophie Tesauri told PolitiFact in an email that the collider’s activities have nothing to do with the April 8 eclipse.

"What we do at CERN is doing particle physics with accelerators such as the LHC, and this has little to do with astrophysics in a direct way,"  Tesauri said. "So there is no link between the solar eclipse on Monday 8th April, and what we do at CERN."

CERN has an accelerator complex composed of machines with "increasingly higher energies." A beam of particles is injected by one machine to the next one, bringing the beam to a higher energy — and the Large Hadron Collider is the last element in this complex. 

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"Hadrons" are a group of particles that include protons and ions. In the Large Hadron Collider, two beams travel in opposite directions at nearly light speed and are made to collide. In 2012, Large Hadron Collider experiments led to the discovery of the Higgs boson particle , a particle named for British physicist Peter Higgs, who in the 1960s postulated about the existence of a particle that interacted with other particles at the beginning of time to provide them with their mass.

Tesauri told PolitiFact that the accelerator complex is restarted every year after a brief winter technical stop, when beam production ceases so that the accelerators can undergo maintenance. Restarting an accelerator like the Large Hadron Collider "requires a full commissioning process in order to check that all equipment works properly."

"Now that all the checks have been performed, the LHC is ready to provide particle collisions to the LHC experiments, and first collisions for this year should actually happen today 5th April," Tesauri said in her email. "This will mark the beginning of the physics run for 2024."

The beams were initially expected to enter collision April 8, according to a March 14 report . It said, "Depending on how work progresses, this milestone may shift forwards or backwards by a few days." 

On April 5, CERN announced that the Large Hadron Collider achieved its first stable beams in 2024, "marking the official start of the 2024 physics data-taking season." The statement said that from March 8 to April 5, the Large Hadron Collider was set up to handle the beam and tested for any issues.

"Although the solar eclipse on 8 April will not affect the beams in the LHC, the gravitational pull of the moon, like the tides, changes the shape of the LHC because the machine is so big," CERN’s announcement said. This phenomenon is not unique to an eclipse; a 2012 news release discussed distortions in the machine brought about by a full moon.

According to CERN’s frequently asked questions page, the Large Hadron Collider is expected to run over 20 years , "with several stops scheduled for upgrades and maintenance work."

Conspiracy theories surrounding CERN’s work have been circulating for years . In a statement to Verify fact-checkers, CERN said that its research "captures the imagination of lots of people, which is why CERN has been featured in a lot of science fiction books / even movies, around the world." CERN said works inspired by its research are fictional and "should not be confused with the actual scientific research."

False claims about the group’s work are so common that the organization addresses some common theories on its FAQ page : No, it won’t "open a door to another dimension," and no, it won’t "generate black holes in the cosmological sense."

We rate the claim that CERN is activating its Large Hadron Collider in connection with the April 8 solar eclipse False.

Our Sources

Email exchange, Sophie Tesauri, CERN Senior Press Officer, April 5, 2024

Facebook post ( archived ), March 29, 2024

Facebook post ( archived ), April 1, 2024

Wall Street Journal, CERN Is Seeking Secrets of the Universe, or Maybe Opening the Portals of Hell , April 4, 2016

PolitiFact, No, NASA doesn’t have a mission to cause ‘mass psychosis’ during the April 8 solar eclipse , April 2, 2024

PolitiFact, Is NASA ‘shooting three rockets at three moons’? That’s False , April 4, 2024

Britannica, Large Hadron Collider , accessed April 5, 2024

NASA, NASA Eclipse Science , accessed April 5, 2024

CERN, About CERN , accessed April 5, 2024

CERN, FAQs , accessed April 3, 2016

CERN, CERN’s accelerators gear up for action after the winter maintenance break , Feb. 22, 2024

CERN, LHC: the guide , accessed April 3, 2024

CERN, How did we discover the Higgs boson? , accessed April 5, 2024

​​CERN, Accelerator Report: Beams are circulating in the LHC , March 14, 2024

CERN, Large Hadron Collider reaches its first stable beams in 2024 , April 5, 2024

CERN, Full moon pulls LHC from its protons , June 7, 2012

CERN, Accelerator Report: Exploring performance potential for future benefit , Nov. 9, 2023

Verify, No, CERN didn’t open a portal ahead of the U.S. solar eclipse , April 4, 2024

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How Solar Eclipse Conspiracy Theories Came to Be And Why They'll Always Exist

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By Anna Merlan

Eclipse tshirts are displayed for sale during the town's celebration of the April 8 solar eclipse on April 07 2024 in...

By the time you read this — unless you wait an extremely long while — the world will not have ended. The United States will not have declared martial law , people will not be imprisoned in their homes by the government, the CERN Large Hadron Collider will not have opened a portal to another dimension , and, tragically, the aliens will not yet have landed. In the weeks leading up to a total eclipse on April 8, professional conspiracy theorists have been extremely busy making a number of increasingly apocalyptic predictions, which they will stop mentioning very soon after the sun reappears. It’s worth paying close attention to the dire predictions those conspiracy peddlers have made — and what they’ll do when they fail to come true.

For conspiracy peddlers, any major event — a bridge collapse, a natural disaster , an unusual weather event — is a chance to surf the wave of public engagement, looking for extra attention and public relevance, not to mention a chance to scare people in profitable ways.

“​​People post opportunistically to jump on the bandwagon,” says Renee DiResta. who is the technical research manager at Stanford University’s Internet Observatory and studies how disinformation and what are referred to as “malign narratives” spread on the internet. “Especially if it’s a topic people are searching for. Novelty and sensationalism always sell. Some percentage of views and shares on these things are serious, though when they break out of the conspiracy community it often pivots to ‘hate shares.’ That is still engagement."

The eclipse has been no different. As Wired wryly noted, it was the Super Bowl for many conspiracy theorists, with a huge chorus joining in to claim that the event would be used to impose totalitarian control over the population. Because the eclipse was expected to be viewable in much of the United States, state and local agencies across the country responded accordingly. In states where large numbers of people were expected to travel to see the eclipse, governments declared states of emergency ahead of time, a tool that allowed them to access resources to help deal with a huge influx of visitors , including extra police, help with crowd and traffic control, and, in many cases, access to federal funds if a disaster occurred and help was needed from FEMA, the government agency that deals with disaster relief.

Because conspiracy theories often focus on false predictions that the government or an international body like the United Nations will use a major event to try to seize unlawful control, the state of emergency declarations were immediately put to use by conspiracy peddlers.

“ Anything can be done ,” tweeted the author Naomi Wolf, whose conspiratorial claims have gotten increasingly absurd over the past few years, referring to the emergency declarations. “You may never get your democracy back.” Infowars, the conspiracy-addled outlet run by Alex Jones, claimed that the federal government would use the eclipse to “test” martial law , a claim Jones makes about a lot of things, and that “Masonic rituals” would also be performed to usher in the “New World Order.” While that does sound like a full day at the office for the elites that Jones claims secretly run the world, neither of those things happened. But the Masonic rituals clip got nearly two million views on X alone. Each eclipse segment posted on social media ended with an ad for the network’s store, which sells supplements and various health products that make grandiose claims and it's how Jones and Infowars make money.

Other conspiracy theories were even more far-fetched: One that circulated widely claimed the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, would somehow “open a portal” during the eclipse at its Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest particle accelerator, located on the Switzerland-France border. (Besides that being both impossible and nonsensical, conspiracy theories about CERN are very common, with claims circulating more or less constantly that CERN’s research opens black holes , causes earthquakes, or participates in human sacrifice. ) USA Today gathered a host of the weirder false eclipse claims : that NASA would fire rockets at the moon during the eclipse as part of an occult ritual, that a “Birdman” had been seen circling the skies in the days leading up to the eclipse, and that the entire planet would go dark for days on end. And, of course, there was the Second Coming, with some Christians claiming the eclipse would herald the return of Jesus , an event that also did not — as far as we know — occur.

With the eclipse, conspiracy peddlers are also relying heavily on coincidence, stringing together a bunch of unrelated world events to try to create the impression that the planet is spiraling toward frightening chaos and destruction. Jason Shurka, who has described himself as a “spiritual teacher” and runs an alternative media company, posted a video claiming that a series of world events, including the recent collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge, a cyberattack on AT&T, and Airbnb changing some of its terms of service, were all somehow related and sinister in a way that he did not spell out.

“All of these things are connected,” Shurka claimed. “The question is how and why and only time will tell us that.” The video’s caption encouraged viewers to “follow me as we approach April 8,” the date of the eclipse, “and so many other big days.”

Shurka has done this before, and quite recently: Last fall, two government agencies, FEMA and the FCC, conducted a nationwide test of the emergency broadcast system. In the leadup to the event, Shurka claimed that the test would be used to “activate” particles in human beings that he heavily implied had been placed there through vaccination and encouraged his followers to turn off their phones to avoid whatever dangers the emergency broadcast represented. When nothing happened, except an emergency alert, of course, Shurka broadened his claim and made it a lot more vague, stating in a now-deleted Instagram post that “the event today is a long-term game. Sickness over time, whether emotionally or physically.” Teen Vogue reached out to Shurka for comment.

A certain rhetorical pattern is common for people who promote conspiracy theories for a living: Large and frightening claims about an upcoming event are replaced with vaguer ones or they're quietly deleted and never mentioned again. Alex Jones has claimed that countless mass shootings are “false flag” attacks designed to serve as a pretext to take away Americans’ guns or otherwise imprison us. When that doesn't happen, he simply moves on and makes similar claims about the next event. (Jones was ordered to pay the families of the children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting more than a billion dollars for defamation. During that trial, he admitted the shooting was “100% real.”).

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In the case of the eclipse, when the conspiracy peddlers’ most dire predictions fail to come true, they’ll likely claim something invisible happened, maybe a harmful shift in the spiritual realm that only they are attuned to, and that they’ll promise will conveniently take time to make itself known.

In the end, the eclipse was an extraordinary, rare, and awesome — in the original sense of the word — natural event, and sadly one that the conspiracy peddlers encouraged people to view through a prism of fear and dread. Now that it’s over, Renee DiResta says, they’re very much hoping that — as has happened countless times in the past — their audiences will simply move on.

“There have been many moments in history in which a doomsday prophecy fails to materialize and one of two things happens,” she says. “The deeply committed make some excuse about getting the math wrong and claim that the portal to the other universe, or whatever, will just open up on a different day. Or they talk about something else and hope no one notices.”

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Peter Higgs, physicist who theorised the Higgs boson, has died aged 94

Nobel prizewinning theoretical physicist Peter Higgs has died aged 94. He proposed the particle that gives other particles mass – now named the Higgs boson and discovered by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in 2012

By Leah Crane

9 April 2024

large hadron collider time travel bird

Physicist Peter Higgs in Italy in 1996

Leonardo Cendamo/Getty Images

Groundbreaking theoretical physicist Peter Higgs has died at age 94. Higgs’s work explaining how elementary particles get their mass won him the Nobel prize in 2013 and formed a key ingredient in the standard model of particle physics . He died in his home in Edinburgh, UK, on 8 April after a short illness.

In 1964, while working as a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, Higgs made a prediction that would prove to have a huge impact on the world of physics: he postulated the existence of a field suffusing the universe that gave mass to particles moments after the big bang . This field would be associated with a particle of its own, which was later named the Higgs boson .

The Higgs boson went on to become a foundational prediction of the standard model of particle physics, nicknamed the “god particle” – a moniker that Higgs himself called “an unfortunate mixing of theoretical physics with bad theology” in a 2017 interview with New Scientist .

Can a new collider reveal the last secrets of the Higgs boson?

The most famous subatomic particle has revealed nothing we didn’t expect – so far. Now physicists want to build a “Higgs factory” to better interrogate it for signs of new physics

After years of searching for proof of the Higgs boson, it was finally discovered at the CERN particle physics laboratory in Switzerland in 2012. A year later, Higgs was awarded the Nobel prize, one of many prizes and honours he received for his work.

The discovery of the Higgs boson is commonly cited as the most consequential work of the Large Hadron Collider, but it also marked the beginning of a strange time in particle physics – with all of the particles predicted by the standard model found, what is next? Higgs himself hoped that we would be able to use colliders to connect particle physics with cosmology and the search for dark matter, but those questions remain open.

Even after his retirement in 1996, Higgs continued to attend physics conferences and to collaborate with colleagues and students. He spoke often about supersymmetry, a framework for physics in which each known particle has a corresponding partner with a different spin. If we do live in a supersymmetric universe, there should be many more particles out there to discover.

Strange new Higgs particles could explain shocking W boson result

Ideas from beyond the standard model of particle physics, including technicolor and glueball Higgs particles, could explain the recent shock finding that the W boson is heavier than we thought

  • Large Hadron Collider /
  • Higgs boson /
  • particle physics

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Here’s What Else Happens Eclipse Day: ‘Devil Comet,’ Rocket Launches And Dark Matter

T he United States’ first total solar eclipse in seven years will occur Monday, but other space-related events will also take place that day, including rocket launches, the potential to witness the “devil comet” and a dark matter experiment.

As a part of the Atmospheric Perturbations around Eclipse Path mission, NASA is launching three rockets into the moon’s shadow on Monday during the total solar eclipse to better understand what happens to Earth’s upper atmosphere when the sun is temporarily dimmed.

This event will be livestreamed along with NASA’s livestream feed of the total solar eclipse, and the launch window time for the rockets is between 2:40 p.m. EDT and 4:05 p.m. EDT.

Comet 12P/Pons-Brooks, dubbed the “devil comet” for its horns, may be visible during the total solar eclipse to those within the path of totality, according to NASA.

Comets aren’t typically visible to the naked eye during the day, but the devil comet may become visible in the sky close to Jupiter momentarily during the eclipse because the sky will darken once the moon blocks the sun.

The European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN) will fire up the Large Hadron Collider , the most powerful particle accelerator in the world, on Monday and collide protons together to simulate the Big Bang.

Though this won’t be happening in space, the goal of the experiment is to search for dark matter , because although scientists have been able to theorize it exists due to the gravitational effects it has on visible matter, no one’s actually ever seen it before.

What To Watch For

Some astronomers predict a phenomenon called the double diamond ring may occur during the solar eclipse. This is a rare event that happens when the last glimpse of the sun as it’s dimming suddenly turns into a bright flash around its rim, before appearing to extinguish completely. The first ring happens when the moon first eclipses the sun—called totality—and the second occurs at the end of totality. However, only those near the center of totality will be able to witness this phenomenon, though others within the path may see at least one ring.

Between 931,000 and 3.7 million. That’s how many people are expected to travel to parts of the U.S. within the solar eclipse’s path of totality Monday, according to eclipse tracking organization Great American Eclipse. This adds on to the 31 million people already living in eclipse states that GAE expects to participate.

Key Background

A total solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between Earth and the sun and completely blocks the face of the sun, causing the sky to darken. Monday will be the first time since 2017 the U.S. will witness a total solar eclipse, when it previously passed through 14 states including Georgia and Tennessee. The path of totality this year will only pass through Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, though small regions in Michigan and Tennessee will be in the path as well, according to NASA. Certain regions in Mexico and Canada will also be within the path. However, all 48 contiguous states will be able to see a partial eclipse. In preparation for the influx of visitors and traffic, some states, counties and cities have declared states of emergencies.

Further Reading

Everything To Know About The Total Solar Eclipse—Including Map And Path Tracker (Forbes)

Here’s Why The Total Solar Eclipse Has Prompted States Of Emergency In Parts Of U.S. (Forbes)

Here’s How The Niagara Falls Region Is Readying For An Influx Of Eclipse Tourists (Forbes)

Here’s What Else Happens Eclipse Day: ‘Devil Comet,’ Rocket Launches And Dark Matter

A Supercollider on the Moon Could Unlock the Secrets of Our Universe—And We Just Found the Secret to Building One

The megastructure could produce 1,000 times more energy than the Large Hadron Collider, allowing scientists to “rewind” the clock and study the origins of the cosmos.

lunar collider illustration

Particle colliders propel charged particles like protons and electrons together at high speeds. On Earth, some are circular, like the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva, Switzerland. Others are built in straight lines. Both designs help particles reach phenomenal speeds.

The energy from the collisions can create matter in the form of new particles, including some of the largest ones that we know of (like the Higgs boson , a fundamental particle that helps give other particles mass). So having the extra space to build a bigger, more powerful particle collider could potentially lead scientists to the discovery of other new particles. These particles help to glue together disparate physics ideas and move us toward a more complete understanding of the universe. A megastructure on the moon, for its part, could enable particle acceleration that reaches 14 quadrillion electron volts, or about 1,000 times more energy than the LHC —the most powerful particle collider on Earth.

“We have big open questions in science and particle physics and we don’t have any more theoretical hints as to where we should go to solve them,” says James Beacham, Ph.D., a particle physicist working for Duke University, who helped theorize the lunar collider. By building an enormous collider, we increase the likelihood of discovering the next Higgs boson. We can also continue to study the birth of the universe by “rewinding” another hair’s breadth toward the Big Bang .

Building this kind of massive infrastructure on the moon may seem like an insurmountable challenge. But, Beacham says, the steps to do so are both practical and possible.

Step No. 1: Send the workforce to the moon for surveys

First, scientists will need to see what materials are available on the moon—and what they’ll need to bring from Earth. The collider could use regular, supercooled magnets or “higher-temperature” (approximately 100° Kelvin or –173° Celsius) magnets, so researchers need to determine whether or not there are enough naturally occurring materials on the moon to make the higher-temperature magnets. If there are, that could save a lot on transportation costs and infrastructure, because cooling to near 0° kelvin requires so much energy.

Transporting tools and building materials through space is also incredibly expensive. Tunnel-​boring machines, alone, can weigh over 1,200 tons (about 240,000 pounds), and NASA estimates that each pound of payload costs $700 to send into Earth’s orbit, let alone the moon’s orbit. (For context, the Apollo program cost an inflation-adjusted $280 billion.)

Step No. 2: Consider how the collider will wrap around the moon

You can take the circumference of a spheroid at any point or location, so the collider doesn’t have to wrap around the widest part of the moon. Scientists say there are great circle routes around the moon that avoid changing elevation, for example.

Step No. 3: Set up manufacturing infrastructure

Initially, mining for materials will be the highest priority. “The best option for a moon-based collider would be to use iron-based, high-temperature superconductors, because it looks like the moon is full of accessible iron,” Beacham says.

Step No. 4: Bore out tunnels for the collider

Beacham says the moon’s surface temperature variations are an immediate problem. An array of superconducting magnets will partly power the particle collider, so the entire structure must be temperature-controlled. “The day-night temp variations on the moon are so large that at least for half of the time, it would be too hot for the magnets to even operate,” Beacham says.

Beacham notes the best bet is to bury the tunnel at least 100 meters underground, where it will still require some cooling, but not nearly as much. At that depth, the collider is also exempt from the moon’s day-night cycle; that helps to maintain its temperature equilibrium.

Step No. 5: Determine a power source

The collider will require so much energy that even all of the existing nuclear fission power on Earth—which supplies about 10 percent of our total energy production—wouldn’t suffice.

It’s estimated that the moon collider will use tens of terawatts of energy, which is closer to what all of humanity uses each day (that number is about 15 terawatts). Here, the scientists suggest using a solar-powered Dyson Sphere , an imagined space “superstructure” that can directly capture energy from a nearby star (see below).

Step No. 6: Build the collider and the infrastructure to “work from home” on the moon

Most people who study the Large Hadron Collider aren’t on site, because they receive huge quantities of data that they can study from anywhere. Beacham believes that the moon collider would be no different. But we do need to figure out the best way to beam large amounts of data from the moon to Earth. More importantly, besides a skeleton crew for maintenance, people on Earth will need to be able to operate the collider. That means something like your remote virtual desktop for your job, except your job is on the moon.

Naturally, there are plenty of roadblocks that could crop up while planning a mega infrastructure project so far into the future. But for now, Beacham is pleased that the collider could at least bring together some of the greatest minds in science. “Let’s harness the power of these people who are really set on going back to the moon, let’s get them to [focus on lunar collider] projects that are for the good of humanity,” he says. “Everybody could win with such a project.”

What Is a Dyson Sphere?

dyson sphere

Freeman Dyson, a prolific British- American physicist, first introduced his eponymous Dyson Sphere concept in a landmark 1960 paper. In it, he describes the futuristic energy- capturing structure as a “hollow ball built around the sun.” The theoretical device, covered in solar panels and mirrors, could wrap around a solar system’s largest star to harvest its energy. But because the contraption would cover the sun, it could have dramatic consequences for Earth’s ecosystem.

A better alternative, then, is a Dyson Swarm—a take on the Dyson Sphere that features a collection of smaller, individual harvesters that orbit the sun like satellites, wirelessly transferring solar energy to the moon. —Courtney Linder

Headshot of Caroline Delbert

Caroline Delbert is a writer, avid reader, and contributing editor at Pop Mech. She's also an enthusiast of just about everything. Her favorite topics include nuclear energy, cosmology, math of everyday things, and the philosophy of it all. 

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UK Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist Peter Higgs Dies Aged 94

Reuters

FILE PHOTO: Nobel physics laureate Peter Higgs addresses the traditional Nobel gala banquet at the Stockholm City Hall December 10, 2013. REUTERS/Henrik Montgomery/TT News Agency/File Photo

By Robert Evans

LONDON (Reuters) - Physicist Peter Higgs, whose theory of an undetected particle in the universe changed science and was vindicated by a Nobel prize-winning discovery half a century later, has died aged 94, the University of Edinburgh said on Tuesday.

The discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012 at the CERN research centre near Geneva was widely hailed as the biggest advance in knowledge about the cosmos for over 30 years, and pointed physics towards ideas that were once science fiction.

"For me personally it is just the confirmation of something I did 48 years ago, and it is very satisfying to be proved right in some way," the British scientist told Reuters at the time.

"At the beginning, I had no expectation that I would still be alive when it happened."

Edinburgh University, where Higgs held a professorial chair for many years, said he had passed away peacefully on Monday at home following a short illness.

Photos You Should See - April 2024

A Mississippi State Capitol facilities worker reaches out to remove a burned out light bulb in the main dome that graces the rotunda of the Capitol in Jackson, Miss., Monday, April 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

“Peter Higgs was a remarkable individual – a truly gifted scientist whose vision and imagination have enriched our knowledge of the world that surrounds us," said Professor Sir Peter Mathieson, the university Principal and Vice-Chancellor.

Higgs described himself as "incompetent" in the physics laboratory at school and at first preferred maths and chemistry. But inspired by quantum physicist Paul Dirac, who had attended the same school, he went on to specialise in theoretical physics.

What came to be known as the Higgs boson would solve the riddle of where several fundamental particles get their mass from: by interacting with the invisible "Higgs field" that pervades space.

That interaction, known as the "Brout-Englert-Higgs" mechanism, won Higgs and Belgium's Francois Englert the Nobel prize in physics in 2013. Englert's collaborator Robert Brout died in 2011.

'AN INCREDIBLE THING'

In 1964, Higgs' first paper on the model was rejected by an academic physics journal at CERN as being "of no relevance to physics". His revised paper, although published weeks after Englert and Brout's, was the first to explicitly predict the existence of a new particle.

"Over a weekend ... I gradually realised that I knew two things that had to be brought together," he said. "I had to go back to my office on the Monday and check that I hadn't made a mistake about this."

The tantalising vision promised to fill a gap in the "Standard Model" - the basic theoretical framework of physics - if only the particle's existence could be proven.

For nearly three decades, physicists at CERN and at Fermilab in Chicago replicated the "Big Bang" by smashing particles together, hoping to glimpse the Higgs boson in the resulting mini-explosions.

CERN's massive Large Hadron Collider finally proved to be the sledgehammer needed to crack the nut, and in 2012 two experiments there independently found the Higgs boson.

Englert and Higgs were in the packed auditorium at CERN to hear the announcement of the discovery, while hundreds of thousands watched online.

"We have reached a milestone in our understanding of nature," CERN Director General Rolf Heuer said, to a roar of applause.

Higgs, clearly overwhelmed, his eyes welling up, told his fellow researchers: "It is an incredible thing that it has happened in my lifetime."

'WHAT AWARD?'

The Higgs boson completed the Standard Model, but fully understanding it is a work in progress. Its discovery allowed theoreticians to turn their attention to the vast portion of the universe that remained unexplained, as well as esoteric ideas such as the possibility of parallel universes.

An atheist, Higgs loathed the nickname "the God particle", which headline writers frequently bestowed on the boson that bore his name.

He had strong views on what was good and bad about science and resigned from a movement for nuclear disarmament when it began campaigning against the harnessing of nuclear energy.

In 1962 Higgs married Jody Williamson, an American linguist and nuclear disarmament campaigner, who died in 2008. They had two sons.

Higgs was modest about his achievements and shy of the media. In an interview on the Nobel prize website, he recounted how, on the morning that the 2013 Nobel announcement was due, he had anticipated media attention and taken steps to avoid it.

He left his house in Edinburgh, where he was emeritus professor at the university, and went for a walk around the harbour, and then to lunch and an art exhibition.

On his way home, a former neighbour congratulated him on his award.

"I said: 'What award?'" he recalled, chuckling.

(Reporting by Robert Evans and Tom Miles, additional reporting by Farouq Suleiman; editing by Pravin Char and Mark Heinrich)

Copyright 2024 Thomson Reuters .

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CERN Accelerating science

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The Large Hadron Collider

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. It consists of a 27-kilometre ring of superconducting magnets with a number of accelerating structures to boost the energy of the particles along the way.

LHC tunnel pt1 various angle

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator . It first started up on 10 September 2008, and remains the latest addition to CERN’s accelerator complex . The LHC consists of a 27-kilometre ring of superconducting magnets with a number of accelerating structures to boost the energy of the particles along the way.

LS1,LHC

Inside the accelerator, two high-energy particle beams travel at close to the speed of light before they are made to collide. The beams travel in opposite directions in separate beam pipes – two tubes kept at ultrahigh vacuum . They are guided around the accelerator ring by a strong magnetic field maintained by superconducting electromagnets . The electromagnets are built from coils of special electric cable that operates in a superconducting state, efficiently conducting electricity without resistance or loss of energy. This requires chilling the magnets to ‑271.3°C – a temperature colder than outer space . For this reason, much of the accelerator is connected to a distribution system of liquid helium, which cools the magnets, as well as to other supply services.

LS1,Magnets,TI2,PMI2,LHC,dipole,descent,replacement

Thousands of magnets of different varieties and sizes are used to direct the beams around the accelerator. These include 1232 dipole magnets, 15 metres in length, which bend the beams, and 392 quadrupole magnets, each 5–7 metres long, which focus the beams. Just prior to collision, another type of magnet is used to "squeeze" the particles closer together to increase the chances of collisions. The particles are so tiny that the task of making them collide is akin to firing two needles 10 kilometres apart with such precision that they meet halfway.

All the controls for the accelerator, its services and technical infrastructure are housed under one roof at the CERN Control Centre. From here, the beams inside the LHC are made to collide at four locations around the accelerator ring, corresponding to the positions of four particle detectors – ATLAS , CMS , ALICE and LHCb.

LHC Facts and Figures

The safety of the lhc, virtual tour of the lhc, status of the lhc in real-time.

IMAGES

  1. No Boundaries Science: The Large Hadron Collider, the Biggest Machine

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  2. What Is The Large Hadron Collider?

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  3. How the Large Hadron Collider Works in 10 Minutes

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  4. The Epistemology of the large hadron collider (LHC): HOME

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  5. The Large Hadron Collider In All Its Sublime Glory [Gallery]

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  6. The Large Hadron Collider Explained

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VIDEO

  1. Scientists Announce a Mysterious Discovery at the Large Hadron Collider!

  2. Exploring the Abyss: Unveiling Secrets at the Large Hadron Collider

  3. Large Hadron Collider explained under one minute.#largehadroncollider #theoryofphysics

  4. The More You Know

  5. The Large Hadron Collider Discovering the Higgs Boson

  6. How The Particle Accelerator Actually Works

COMMENTS

  1. Large Hadron Collider: Damaged by a Time-Traveling Bird?

    Did a Time-Traveling Bird Sabotage the Collider? Sometime on Nov. 3, the supercooled magnets in sector 81 of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), outside Geneva, began to dangerously overheat. Scientists rushed to diagnose the problem, since the particle accelerator has to maintain a temperature colder than deep space in order to work.

  2. Big bang goes phut as bird drops baguette into Cern machinery

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  3. Is the Large Hadron Collider a time machine?

    Published: March 31, 2011 4:07pm EDT. Time travel has long been a staple of science fiction but the LHC might make it a reality. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP. Switzerland's Large Hadron Collider (LHC ...

  4. Large Hadron Collider could be world's first time machine

    If the latest theory of Tom Weiler and Chui Man Ho is right, the Large Hadron Collider - the world's largest atom smasher that started regular operation last year - could be the ...

  5. How the Large Hadron Collider could create time-travelling ...

    Alasdair Wilkins. Published March 17, 2011. Comments ( 47) A crucial goal for the Large Hadron Collider is to find the long-sought Higgs boson. It might also create another Higgs particle that ...

  6. Is CERN activating the world's most powerful particle ...

    In 2012, Large Hadron Collider experiments led to the discovery of the Higgs boson particle, a particle named for British physicist Peter Higgs, who in the 1960s postulated about the existence of ...

  7. Baguette Dropped From Bird's Beak Shuts Down The Large Hadron Collider

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  8. the LHC adventure is a journey through time ....

    The time machine : the LHC adventure is a journey through time .... Download video 240p Original. ID: CERN-MOVIE-1998-001-001. Archaeological findings at one LHC site take us back some 1700 years. Civil engineers dug through rock that dates from about 208 to 144 million years, and the LHC's collisions will complete the journey back to the ...

  9. Large Hadron Collider sabotaged by time travel?

    An interesting theory has been revealed which may point to the reasons so much is going wrong with the Large Hadron Collider, and it revolves around time travel. The New York Times has unearthed ...

  10. Large Hadron Collider: In Search of the 'God Particle'

    ATLAS occupies just one small corner of the strange and wonderful world that is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) — the circular, 14-mile-underground particle accelerator that promises scientists untold insights into the mysteries of the cosmos. More than 25 years in the planning, with a price tag of about $10 billion, the LHC officially ...

  11. The Large Hadron Collider: A time machine?

    A new theory suggests the Big Bang machine could be used to send a special kind of particle back in time. (Image credit: Corbis) By The Week Staff. last updated January 08, 2015. The Large Hadron ...

  12. Man arrested at Large Hadron Collider claims he's from the ...

    This isn't the first time time-travel has been blamed for mishaps at the LHC. Last year, the Japanese physicist Masao Ninomiya and Danish string-theory pioneer Holger Bech Nielsen put forward the ...

  13. No, CERN will not open up a portal during solar eclipse

    CERN uses its Large Hadron Collider to study matter and is responsible for finding the Higgs boson particle, or God particle. Scientists say the finding helps explain the Big Bang theory and how ...

  14. Facts and figures about the LHC

    The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the most powerful particle accelerator ever built. ... Inside the LHC, two particle beams travel at close to the speed of light before they are made to collide. ... Matter and antimatter must have been produced in the same amounts at the time of the Big Bang, but from what we have observed so far, our Universe ...

  15. Accelerator Report: Beams injected into the LHC ahead of heavy ...

    Beams are once again being injected into the Large Hadron Collider, with the status noted in real-time on LHC Page 1. On 30 August, beams were once again injected into the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), slightly ahead of the revised schedule. A few days will now be required to recommission the machine with the beam, to revalidate the machine's ...

  16. Interactive Panorama: Step Inside the Large Hadron Collider

    The collider itself measures 17 mi. (27 km) in circumference, sits 380 ft. (116 m) below ground and cost $10 billion to build. Its detectors and magnets alone weigh tens of thousands of tons.

  17. A new era of physics at the Large Hadron Collider

    Bird flu has infected a person after spreading to cows. Here's what to know ... The Large Hadron Collider has restarted with upgraded proton-smashing potential By Emily Conover April 22, 2022.

  18. The Collider, the Particle and a Theory About Fate

    Oct. 12, 2009. More than a year after an explosion of sparks, soot and frigid helium shut it down, the world's biggest and most expensive physics experiment, known as the Large Hadron Collider ...

  19. Is the Large Hadron Collider Killing Its Own Grandfather?

    One might argue, of course, that if the Higgs boson is crafty enough to kill its own grandfather, as it were, it would also cover its tracks. Of course, other respectable scientists think this ...

  20. How the revamped Large Hadron Collider will hunt for new physics

    Detectors at the ALICE experiment were revamped during the Large Hadron Collider's 2018-22 shutdown. Credit: Maximilien Brice, Julien Marius Ordan/CERN. The hunt for new physics is back on ...

  21. The Large Hadron Collider: Everything you need to know

    The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the biggest and most powerful particle accelerator in the world. It is located at the European particle physics laboratory CERN, in Switzerland. The LHC ...

  22. CERN isn't activating Large Hadron Collider for the eclipse

    On April 5, CERN announced that the Large Hadron Collider achieved its first stable beams in 2024, "marking the official start of the 2024 physics data-taking season." The statement said that from ...

  23. How Solar Eclipse Conspiracy Theories Came to Be And Why They'll Always

    The United States will not have declared martial law, people will not be imprisoned in their homes by the government, the CERN Large Hadron Collider will not have opened a portal to another ...

  24. Peter Higgs: Physicist who theorised the Higgs boson has died aged 94

    The discovery of the Higgs boson is commonly cited as the most consequential work of the Large Hadron Collider, but it also marked the beginning of a strange time in particle physics - with all ...

  25. Here's What Else Happens Eclipse Day: 'Devil Comet,' Rocket ...

    The European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN) will fire up the Large Hadron Collider, the most powerful particle accelerator in the world, on Monday and collide protons together to simulate the ...

  26. The Large Hadron Collider: 10 years and counting

    Ten years ago, on 10 September 2008, two yellow dots on a screen signalled the first time that protons had circulated CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC), marking the end of years of design and construction. It was also a moment when the wider world switched on to particle physics. The spectacle of a bunch of subatomic particles making its way around a 27-km-circumference subterranean tube at ...

  27. How a Lunar Supercollider Could Unlock the Universe's Secrets

    A Supercollider on the Moon Could Unlock the Secrets of Our Universe—And We Just Found the Secret to Building One. The megastructure could produce 1,000 times more energy than the Large Hadron ...

  28. UK Nobel Prize-winning physicist Peter Higgs dies age 94

    London —. Physicist Peter Higgs, whose theory of an undetected particle in the universe changed science and was vindicated by a Nobel prize-winning discovery half a century later, has died aged ...

  29. UK Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist Peter Higgs Dies Aged 94

    CERN's massive Large Hadron Collider finally proved to be the sledgehammer needed to crack the nut, and in 2012 two experiments there independently found the Higgs boson.

  30. The Large Hadron Collider

    The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world's largest and most powerful particle accelerator.It first started up on 10 September 2008, and remains the latest addition to CERN's accelerator complex.The LHC consists of a 27-kilometre ring of superconducting magnets with a number of accelerating structures to boost the energy of the particles along the way.