Large Hadron Collider gives young ALICE a black-hole ray gun

What could possibly go wrong?

ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus) is one of six detector experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) – image by Maximilien Brice CERN/Science photo library
"We don't serve Neutrinos in here." // A Muon walks into a bar.

CERN's Large Hadron Collider is ready to provide more scientific breakthroughs to the world after almost two years of slumber and months of recommissioning.

Particle-physics boffins tell us the new LHC experiments are "ready to take data at the unprecedented energy of 13 TeV (trillion electron volts), almost double the collision energy of its first run."

Season 2, as they're calling it, stars ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment), who will be studying the results of even more energetic collisions than those created in Season 1, which ran from 2010 to 2013.

The LHC's Season 1 ended for planned maintenance in 2013, after running for three years. Particle-boffins state that "hundreds of engineers and technicians spent two years repairing and strengthening the accelerator in preparation for running at higher energy" during the downtime.

The primary function of the maintenance was to improve the efficacy of the LHC, although upkeep work took place and new safety measures were also installed.

The energy of collisions the LHC makes in 2015 will be 13 TeV (or 6.5 TeV per beam) compared to 8 TeV (4 TeV per beam) in 2012.

These higher energy collisions will allow particle boffins to extend the search for new bits of matter and check previously untestable theories. It will be aided in this by a narrower beam, as transverse beam size – the width of the beam – decreases with increasing energy. Beams in the LHC will, therefore, be more tightly focused, which means more interactions and collisions for the experiments to study.

During Season 2, the higher collision energy is expected to produce more high-energy particles interacting with the hot medium of quark-gluon plasma. More collisions means there is more for ALICE to see, and an increase in statistics is hoped to allow more detailed measurements of whatever phenomena may take place.

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ALICE is a larger lady. She has a mass of 10,000 tonnes, and is sat upon the 27km ring of superconducting magnets beneath Geneva, specifically to study what is called the quark-gluon plasma.

The CERN press office explains how, "For a few millionths of a second, shortly after the Big Bang, the universe was filled with this astonishingly hot, dense soup made of all kinds of particles moving at near light speed."

"This mixture was dominated by quarks – fundamental bits of matter – and by gluons, carriers of the strong force that normally “glue” quarks together into familiar protons, neutrons and other species. In those first evanescent moments of extreme temperature, however, quarks and gluons were bound only weakly, free to move on their own in what's called a quark–gluon plasma. The higher energy collisions at the LHC will allow new and more detailed characterization of this quark-gluon plasma."

As the quark-gluon plasma cooled it produced the particles which make up the matter in our present universe. It is understood that a droplet of this primordial matter is produced when very high-energy lead nuclei collide at the LHC.

As always, rather than reading the peer-reviewed safety report, idiots are prone to enjoying the hilarious company of themselves, and CERN cites several boffins who note that there is little to be concerned of in the experiment.

Among them is Professor Steven Hawking, former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, whose warning regarding Artificial Intelligence suggests he is not complacent about possible threats to human existence.

"The world will not come to an end when the LHC turns on. The LHC is absolutely safe," said Hawking, pretty conclusively. "Collisions releasing greater energy occur millions of times a day in the earth's atmosphere and nothing terrible happens." ®


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