CERN’s LHC Returns for Season 2


Image Credit & Copyright: Conseil Europeen pour la Recherche Nucleaire (CERN) of the LHC’s CMS Detector.

With Conseil Europeen pour la Recherche Nucleaire (CERN) re-starting the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) today as I write this on Easter, April 5, 2015 I thought it would be fun to touch on a few LHC facts that, at least to me, are truly mind blowing.  Let’s have some fun!

The LHC “Season 1” ran from November 20, 2009 to “Shutdown 1” on February 14, 2013.  During that 3 year run, the LHC operated at 7-8 Tev which is roughly half of what it was designed to operate at.  As its second 3-year run “Season 2” gets under way, it should operate at its full potential of 13 Tev and after discovery of the Higgs, it now sets its sights on Dark Matter, Super Symmetry, parallel universes and with its higher energy we should come closer to the Big Bang than we ever have before.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is by far the world’s most powerful particle accelerator.  In fact, it’s the most complex scientific facility ever created with over 10,000 scientists from over 100 countries working there.

The LHC is 27 km (17 mi.) in circumference and it sits on the border of Geneva and France, near Switzerland 100 m (330 ft.) underground.

There are 4 main experiments at the LHC; the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS), A Toroidal LHC Apparatus (ATLAS), A Large Ion Collider Experiment (ALICE) and the LHC-beauty (LHCb).

The 27 km (17 mi.) track consists of those 4 major experiments as well as 9,300 super cooled electromagnets chilled to an amazing 1.9 Kelvin (-271 deg. C) (-456 deg. F).  That’s colder than the 2.7 Kelvin vacuum of space!

Protons travel around the track at 299 million meters (984 million ft.) per second for approximately 10 hours, each second they make 11,200 trips around the 27 km (17 mi.) track.  That speed is 99.999999% or just 3 meters (9.8 ft.) per second slower than the speed of light!

Let’s have that speed in a different format.  The protons travel at 299,000 km (186,000 mi.) per second.  That’s just shy of the 299,700 km (186,262 mi.) speed of light!

Protons can remain circulating for upwards of 10 hours.  In that time they travel the distance to Pluto and back!

Protons at that speed are 3,740 times their original mass and enjoy the effects of relativity.  According to that has a Lorentz factor of about 7,460.  That means if you’re the proton, time is passing 7,460 times more slowly than at rest.  At that speed, from the frame of reference of the proton, you could reach Proxima Centauri 4.2 light years away in only 5 hours.  For everyone else watching, you would only be passing Pluto in that time.

You’ve heard that the closer you get to the speed of light your mass increases dramatically, especially in that force field known as the last percent.  Let’s use the proton in the LHC as an example. At 99.93% of the speed of light (c), the proton is 27 times its rest mass.  At 99.9998% of (c) it’s 500 times its rest mass and at 99.999996% of (c) it’s reached 3,740 times its rest mass….amazing!


The LHC can handle 600 million to about 1 billion collisions per second and cameras attempt to capture the action at a rate of 40 million images per second which results in over 1 petabyte of data flow every second.

There’s no system today that can handle that flow of data so the outflow runs through a computer bank known as “The Trigger” which sorts and keeps only the most interesting 100,000 per second.  That is then filtered further through “The Farm” which retains only about 100-300 of the most interesting collisions per second.  That data is then sent to “The Grid” which is literally all over the world to 140 centers in 35 countries for analysis any time.

The magnetic field created by the major experiments of the LHC is 160,000 times more powerful than Earth’s magnetic field!

Every proton-proton collision replicates the conditions present just a billionth of a second after the Big Bang.  Collisions reach temperatures of many trillions of degrees…..doesn’t matter which temperature format you use.

That’s just in a space the size of a proton.  If you wanted to scale that energy up to the size of a basketball it would take the entire energy output of the Sun for 20 million years!  This according to Fermilab’s Dr. Don Lincoln.

On August 13 2012 the ALICE experiment, which collides lead ions instead of protons reached the hottest temperature ever recorded in the universe; 5.5 trillion degrees Kelvin according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

That’s more than 300,000 times hotter than the core of the Sun and the resulting material was a quark-gluon plasma.

And all THAT while only operating at HALF POWER!


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