Countdown Underway in Search for ‘God Particle’

GENEVA ~ European particle physics laboratory CERN has announced it will start up its massive particle accelerator on September 10, hoping that it could throw light on the origins of the universe.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the greatest experiment in the history of particle physics.

Scientists are banking that it will confirm the existence of a sub-atomic component – the Higgs Boson, known as “the God Particle” – that would fill in the last missing piece of the so-called Standard Model of particle physics.

A gamble costing six billion Swiss francs (almost US$6 billion) that has harnessed the labors of more than 2,000 physicists from nearly three dozen countries, the LHC is the biggest, most powerful high-energy particle accelerator ever built.

Beams of hydrogen protons will whizz around at near-light speed in opposite directions until, bent by powerful superconducting magnets, they will smash together in four bus-sized detector chambers, where they will be annihilated at temperatures hotter than the sun.

“Starting up such a machine is not as simple as flipping a switch,” the laboratory said in a statement.

The commissioning starts with the cooling down of each of the machine’s eight sectors, then electrical testing of the 1,600 superconducting magnets, after which each sector’s circuits, and then the sectors themselves, are powered together so the LHC can operate as a single machine.

“We’re finishing a marathon with a sprint,” said LHC project leader Lyn Evans.

“It’s been a long haul, and we’re all eager to get the LHC research program underway.”

However, there are unlikely to be any immediate discoveries once the LHC is set in motion.

“We will accumulate data for two years and it will take a lot of time to interpret,” CERN’s director general Robert Aymar said back in May.

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