Feeds

The Reg puts Vulture inside the Large Hadron Collider

No sign of any superpowers yet ...

The next step in data security

Pics It's probably the greatest scientific experiment of our time (or at least the biggest), a 27km round tunnel that fires trillions of protons in opposite directions over 11,000 times a second at 99.9999991 per cent of the speed of light lying under the Alps in Europe.

LHCb entrance

The entrance to the Large Hadron Collider beauty

The Large Hadron Collider is literally trying to answer questions about life, the Universe and everything, investigating the last physical mysteries of how this crazy Universe called home got started. Its investigations include probing the nature of dark matter and dark energy, which it is theorised make up the mass of 95 per cent of the cosmos, finding out what the deal is with quarks, and, of course, looking for that pesky Higgs boson.

The so-called God particle, which physicists hypothesise gives mass to visible matter in the macrocosm, has been spotted, though of course its discovery throws up more questions than answers. Now the LHC is going to rev up its engines (so to speak) to 13 trillion electron-volts (TeV) in order to prove or disprove supersymmetry, and look into some of the mysteries of the Standard Model of particle physics. Physicists hypothesise that there are even more particles in the TeV energy range, so adding a bit more juice to the LHC should help answer some questions and, if all goes well, confirm some theories.

To ramp up the energy, LHC engineers need to tinker about with all the bits of the huge project, making sure they can handle the new higher energies, in a two-year process known as the long shutdown. Aside from prepping the collider for greater things in 2018, the shutdown also gave one lucky Reg hack the opportunity to see its insides.

To say the complex straddling the border of France and Switzerland is impressive is a vast understatement. The Alps tower over the site, which is swarming with thousands of people a hell of a lot smarter than your humble writer. But naturally, the small group of journos is itching to descend around 100m underground to the tunnel.

LHCb airlock

Step this way, Dr Freeman

LHCb lift

The lift to the beauty experiment

The first stop on the tour was the LHCb experiment, where boffins are investigating basic questions about antimatter and looking for signs of the elusive dark matter.

If an appropriate sense of awe had not already been instilled in the LHCb visitors by the amazing experiment, the sheer magnitude of the collider in general, massive warehouses, and myriad important-looking wires and tubing, it certainly was when we had to start going through radiation safety airlock structures and passed signs with orange alarm lights attached.

When matter and antimatter meet, they annihilate each other, raising the interesting question of how the Universe ever came into being, since all the matter made in the Big Bang should have exploded along with its opposite number. LHCb wants to figure out why that didn't happen and along the way, look out for beauty quarks, a rare type that only exist for about a million millionth of a second in the experiment and could help point to a whole new family of particles that may make up some of the dark matter in the universe.

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.