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A Detailed Profile of the Hadron Super Collider 191

Posted by Zonk
from the big-science dept.
davco9200 writes "The New York Times has up a lengthy profile of the Large Hadron Collider. The article covers the basics (size = 17 miles, cost = 8 billion, energy consumption = 14 trillon electron volts) and history but also provides interesting interviews of the scientists who work with the facility every day. The piece also goes into some detail on the expected experiments. 'The physicists, wearing hardhats, kneepads and safety harnesses, are scrambling like Spiderman over this assembly, appropriately named Atlas, ducking under waterfalls of cables and tubes and crawling into hidden room-size cavities stuffed with electronics. They are getting ready to see the universe born again.' There are photos, video and a nifty interactive graphic."
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A Detailed Profile of the Hadron Super Collider

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  • Cool (Score:5, Funny)

    by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Tuesday May 15, 2007 @12:42PM (#19132249) Homepage Journal

    They are getting ready to see the universe born again.

    It's like having a Tivo with a 6,000 year replay capacity!

  • Compact?! (Score:5, Funny)

    by TheWoozle (984500) on Tuesday May 15, 2007 @12:43PM (#19132253)
    "Above is one of the collider's massive particle detectors, called the Compact Muon Solenoid"

    I'd hate to see the Large Muon Solenoid!
  • by Nimey (114278) on Tuesday May 15, 2007 @12:43PM (#19132257) Homepage Journal
    I don't even want to think about a hardon supercollider.
  • Actually, don't.
  • when the universe starts again my life better not suck as bad as it has, or i want my money back!
  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Tuesday May 15, 2007 @12:48PM (#19132369)
    The problem with something this expensive is that the average person, including myself, cannot see, even if it provides every answer they hope for it, how that will change my everyday life in the least. At least the Space Program gave us Tang.
    • by Jamu (852752) on Tuesday May 15, 2007 @01:05PM (#19132693)
      The expense of Physics isn't a problem until it's unaffordable. Physics has always been profitable in the long term, and survives because it's profitable in the short term. And Physics gave you the Space Program.
    • by qc_dk (734452) on Tuesday May 15, 2007 @01:16PM (#19132849)
      Well, you used something that came from the CERN collaboration to write your question. I would say that WWW has certainly changed the daily life of almost all of us, and the economic boom that it caused through the 90s has certainly been a bountiful repayment of our investment.

      Cheers,
      Qc_dk
      Ps. I used to work at cern and with the 10'000 men and 2 women there, there certainly was a lot of large hardon collisions. I believe you USians call it cockblocking. ;)
    • by Loki_1929 (550940) on Tuesday May 15, 2007 @01:29PM (#19133053) Journal
      Pure science has no marketable goals in mind. What will the discovery of new particles bring to the world? No one knows, just as no one knew the consequences of the discovery of the electron in 1897. Yet we now have a world where the bulk of the economy is built upon knowing its properties and behavior. Pure science brings about quiet revolutions in unpredictable ways, and those who recognize that realize that funding it is vital to progress. You mention the space program giving us Tang; have you any idea how many commercial products have come about as a direct result of the space program? Any idea of the lives saved and the progress achieved through the struggles brought about by our venturing into space?

    • by wanerious (712877) on Tuesday May 15, 2007 @01:38PM (#19133179) Homepage
      I'm not trying to be offensive, but that sounds like a remarkably egotistic statement. Should it be required to change your life in any way for you to care about it? Rather than something being wrong with the experiment in that it has no intersection with your interests, perhaps the problem is that your interests are too narrow to accommodate something that (I'd argue) is objectively interesting by any measure. Here is an opportunity for the average person to learn something about the fundamental nature of the Universe to understand the results.
      • by timeOday (582209)

        Should it be required to change your life in any way for you to care about it?
        Did you really mean "care about," or "pay for?"
        • by wanerious (712877)
          Either one. Members of a society should occasionally pay for things that are not in their self-interest. This, in my opinion, is surely in that category. It is so interesting that, also in my opinion, every member of the society should attempt to appreciate the science.
      • Should it be required to change your life in any way for you to care about it?

        When I'm paying for it -- Yes!

        What I'm saying is that this is far more money than I'll ever see in this lifetime, for something that doesn't appear likely to improve my life one iota in the process. I'm stating a common point of view for many people about projects like this, which is not egotistic at all.

        • by wanerious (712877)
          Just because the opinion is popular doesn't make it right. It is certainly egotistic to assume that the project should not be funded just because it doesn't affect your life. It may well affect others. The implicit assumption is that your life and interests are complete and in the right; whereas I would argue that the cause is right, and something about you might be broken if you can't see the worthiness of it. One aspect of maturity is the ability to sacrifice for the benefit of others.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            for me, it's good enough that the biggest machine on earth does not work for either the military or some corporation, but for the whole of mankind, for future generations and for all of us. that's a very nice thought, i think.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Somnus (46089)
      To me endeavors like this are the most perfect expression of man. Vonnegut wrote in Breakfast of Champions,

      Our awareness is all that is alive and maybe sacred in any of us. Everything else about us is dead machinery.

      To plunge into the unknown is a moral imperative for any thinking being.

      If all you care about are material practicalities, this thing is roughly 1/50th the current cost of a certain misadventure in the Middle East, and is more likely to produce cool stuff. One particularly exciting bit of tech

    • by kindbud (90044)
      <mocking tone>"At least the space program gave us Tang. At least the space program gave us Tang."</mocking tone> And I suppose that computer you're using is made of stone knives and bear skins? Open your eyes man! Especially if you've had LASIK surgery to correct nearsightedness. Neither computers nor the internet nor the delicate molecular manipulations of the cornea - made with lasers that are also guided by computers - would be possible without the insights gained from the kind of experi
    • by Ambitwistor (1041236) on Tuesday May 15, 2007 @03:16PM (#19135023)
      The Large Hadron Collider likely will not change your everyday life, unless you're really into physics. It's not supposed to. It's supposed to help the human race learn more about the natural world in which we live.

      Senator John Pastore: Is there anything connected with the hopes of this accelerator that in any way involves the security of the country?

      Robert Wilson: No sir, I don't believe so.

      Pastore: Nothing at all?

      Wilson: Nothing at all.

      Pastore: It has no value in that respect?

      Wilson: It has only to do with the respect with which we regard one another, the dignity of men, our love of culture. It has to do with: Are
      we good painters, good sculptors, great poets? I mean all the things we really venerate in our country and are patriotic about. It has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to make it worth defending.

      — at the Congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, April 17, 1969, regarding the justification for funding the then-unbuilt Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory
    • by Dirtside (91468) on Tuesday May 15, 2007 @03:56PM (#19135671) Journal
      Tang was created in 1957 or so, and had nothing to do with the space program until they started using it during Gemini.

      That aside, the answer to your question is that we don't know what we're going to learn from projects like this. But we do fundamental research like this anyway, for a variety of reasons best expressed by this article [math.mun.ca].
    • You got tang out of the space program? I haven't even had a date since before Sputnik :-(
    • The problem with something this expensive is that the average person, including myself, cannot see, even if it provides every answer they hope for it, how that will change my everyday life in the least.

      Yet here you are posting on a website. The web was developed at CERN for those of us working in large, international collaborations to communicate. It also turned out to be pretty good at letting everyone else communicate too. So without CERN there would be no Slashdot for you to post your comments on how you
    • Flying Cars (Score:3, Funny)

      by bill_mcgonigle (4333) *
      how that will change my everyday life

      You're going to get a flying car, OK?

      Well, maybe. See, the LHC is going to be able to smash things at the Weak Scale energy, which is where we need to look (at what comes out of smashed things) to pick among many theories of how the universe works. Depending on the results, dozens of models will be ruled out, and, if we're lucky, one will be left standing.

      This model will likely contain a theory of quantum gravity. We have lots of ideas about how quantum physics and g
  • by NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) on Tuesday May 15, 2007 @12:51PM (#19132429)

    ...energy consumption = 14 trillon electron volts...
    So that means the LHC only uses 2.24 microjoules? Is that per second or per fortnight?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Bazman (4849)
      That's more like 'per hadron'. Ask your electricity supplier to bill you per hadron...

      • by rhombic (140326)

        Ask your electricity supplier to bill you per hadron...

        Particularly since electricity suppliers only provide you with leptons, no hadrons. And they make you give them back when you're done with them. Bastards.

        • Particularly since electricity suppliers only provide you with leptons,

          Your utilities do that?? My sneaky bastards make me give one back for every one they give me... and every 1/120th of a second, they sell me the same one they just sold me!

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Rich0 (548339)
            I hate to be pedantic, but I think a given electron crosses the property line in your direction once every cycle - not half-cycle.

            Let's start a zero voltage with the electron right on the border of your property. The voltage rises to 110/220, and the electron moves towards your house and you "buy" it. Voltage drops to zero and it comes to a halt inside your house somewhere. Voltage drops to -110/220 and the electron moves away from your house. Voltage rises to zero just as the electron crosses your prop
            • T = 0 : electron goes out
              T = 1/120th: electron comes in
              T = 1/60th: electron goes out again

              So yes, it comes in once every 1/60th of a second, but the time between leaving and coming back again is a half cycle.
              • Of course, if you wanted to be REALLY pedantic, you'd point out how electrons are indistinguishable, and the fermi velocity is much higher than the drift velocity, and the whole process is statisitical...

                OK, the jokes REALLY dead now.

                • by Xiaran (836924)
                  The joke is dead but when I was in university an electronics lecturer told me a story about a guy in the UK who had bypassed his electricity meter to avoid paying the bill. The company soon found out what he was doing and told him to stop doing it or they would take him to court for damaging their property. He kept doing it and they took him to court over theft apparently. He tried to make the claim in court that he had stolen nothing because every electron the company had provided him with he quickly retur
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Mr2cents (323101)
        Hmm.. I thought that each proton would be accelerated to 7 TeV, so when they collide there is a 14 TeV collision. In any case, "energy consumption" is the wrong term.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by phaunt (1079975)
      From TFA:

      Everything about the collider sounds, well, large -- from the 14 trillion electron volts of energy with which it will smash together protons (...)
      So that energy is not the consumption (which would be more usefully measured in Watts anyway, as you point out), but the energy the particles have when they collide (which is usually measured in (T)eV).
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by anzev (894391)
      This really is a strange figure. It might reference anything but the consumption, most notably, the "energy" inside the ring. Or maybe the consumption of ONLY the ring itself, becaue when you start looking at the magnets, and vacuum pumps, and control system infrastructure you quickly find out that you need to be connected to at least 2 power grids :-). At least that's the case with DESY if I remember correctly.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by cyberanth (952084)
      It means the particles in the collider are accelerated up to 14TeV; energy is the relevant parameter in high energy physics, strangely enough. If the Higgs weighs 140 GeV for instance, we need to accelerate particles in the collider to more than that energy to produce one.
    • This is the maximum energy available per proton collision - most collisions actually occur at far lower energies because the proton is made up of quarks and gluons, each of which only carry a part of the total energy, and these are what actually collide.

      To get an idea of how big this really is imagine you gave all the protons in 1 gram of hydrogen the same energy. In 1g there are Avogadro's number of protons i.e. 6e23 so you would need ~1.2e18 joules!

      IIRC the LHC projected luminsoity is something like 1e16
  • 17 miles. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by foodnugget (663749)
    seventeen miles? I went to look at the pictures, but i don't see anything that comes close to seventeen miles. Certainly, i don't doubt it, but not knowing much about particle accelerators and supercolliders, i am very curious to get the big picture. If something is seven-teen-miles long, or around, or deep or high, wow, do i really want to see it. or an overlay of it on a map if it is underground!

    Perhaps it is just the structural engineer side of me, but i would love to know more about how they made some
    • by fred ugly (125371)
      check the nifty interactive graphic!
    • As ever you can start with Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] and work outward from there.
    • by brunascle (994197)
      das ist underground.
    • Here is a map [web.cern.ch] showing the layout of the LHC. It actually consists of two rings and a couple of linear accelerator stages so they aren't injecting cold particles into the high energy beam. Keep in mind, the main ring is 17 miles around and about 100 meters underground. A lot of the people living inside its circumference probably don't actually realize what's going on underneath their feet, other than the various CERN campuses spread around the ring and all the nerdy looking people going in and out. In fact,
    • The ring is 17 miles. There are four detectors at different points on that ring, each of which is of course much smaller. The photos in the article show the detectors.
    • There's this neat tool called Google...
  • by sweetser (148397) <sweetser@alum.mit.edu> on Tuesday May 15, 2007 @12:56PM (#19132535) Homepage
    Sorry Charlie, the animations of the Standard Model are up on YouTube, http://youtube.com/watch?v=ExNPiMcVXww [youtube.com]

    U(1) is a unit circle in the complex plane. SU(2) is a unit quaternion which is easy to animate if you have software for the job (barf out thousands of exp(q-q*), sort by time, drive through POVRay). Electroweak is the product of the first two. The animation of SU(3) tells you what the standard model is about, namely the ability to smoothly describe any event seen by an observer at 0,0,0,0. Gravity is about the sizes of things, so scale the ball to different sizes in a smooth way, and that is the symmetry behind gravity.

    It is inertial mass that breaks the symmetry of standard model, not some phony Mexican hat dance around a false god of a vacuum.

    doug
    • by Somnus (46089)
      Questions:

      * What does the quarternion formulation tell us that the standard Standard Model formulation does not? I understand that it provides a unified framework for treating the different groups, but particles in the Standard Model are still charged separately under electroweak and strong -- is this a high energy theory, where we expect gauge coupling unification somewhere?

      * I don't understand your concept of inertial mass breaking gauge symmetries. The Standard Model is Lorentz invariant, and gauge p
  • They are getting ready to see the universe born again.

    Great... So the next time I get stuck behind it in traffic I'm gonna have to stare at some stupid fish logo...
  • by mattnyc99 (1008511) on Tuesday May 15, 2007 @12:57PM (#19132545)
    This stuff is pretty cool, but The New Yorker's incredible science writer (who basically told the rest of the world about global warming) had a more in-your-face profile of the LHC [newyorker.com] last week, and Popular Mechanics has officially dubbed it "The World's Biggest Science Project." [popularmechanics.com] Sweet.
  • I'm seriously getting sick of seeing kW/h or energy units used as consumption measure without any context.
    Wow.. 'energy consumption = 14 trillon electron volts', you say?????
    It's almost 7E-13 kWh! So I guess I could power trillions of LHC with just a liter of oil.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by treeves (963993)
      No. 14TeV is the energy of a single hadron, not the energy involved on the whole LHC.

      So if the beam had a current of 1 amp (1 Coulomb / sec) then the energy of the particles in the beam would be 6.241×10^18 * 7x10^-13 = 4.3*10^6 kW*Hr. That's a lot of energy, and I'm guessing the beam currents are MUCH less than 1 amp. BTW, power = energy / time or work / time.

      Mods are clueless on this one.

  • /. does it again! (Score:5, Informative)

    by perturbed1 (1086477) on Tuesday May 15, 2007 @01:08PM (#19132727)
    There are more mistakes in the /. gist than in the NYTimes article -- which incidentally is a good summary for the LHC. Well, the writer was at CERN about a month ago, so I am assuming it took about that long to write it.

    It is called the LHC -- Large Hadron Collider. Not the Hadron SuperCollider. The SuperCollider [slashdot.org] is dead. It was called the SSC. But it has passed on. It has ceased to be! It has expired and gone to meet its maker! Its a stiff! Bereft of line and rests in peaces in TX! It's kicked the bucket and shuffled off its mortal coil! (Gee. I wish I could write this about the M$! Grrr!!)

    The energy consumption is 14 trillion electron volts?! Wt..? Last time, I checked the LHC could not run on days where the electricity prices were high. Actually, it can not run during winter for that reason. It and the detectors consume as much energy as you get out from a medium-sized nuclear reactor -- and that's why it sits partially in France and not fully in Switzerland. (France produces a whole lot more power than Switzerland.)

    "The piece also goes into some detail on the expected experiments. " Huh? What expected experiments? The experiments have been in construction now for seven years. You mean expected results?!

    Honestly, how many mistakes can you make in one paragraph??

    Sorry about the rant, but I am so annoyed with the latest reports about M$'s threats, that I had to vent. I feel better now. Slightly.

    • And I got the SSC link wrong. Here it is: SSC [hep.net]
  • Just a casual observation: it seems somewhat ironic that the article describes as "spidermen" the physicists working on the collider, which will, among other things, make suns.
    I don't know if it was intentional, but if it was, it's a clever and very subtle reference to the popular comic/movie.

  • Ignoring that a TeV is a unit of energy and not power, that's about 2e-6 joules... a flea sneezes more energetically than that. They mean that individual particles can reach this energy. Actual power consumption is probably enough to power a dozen DeLoreans.
    • ... *curls up and waits to be modded Redundant*
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Oink (33510)
      Actually, what you said is not quite correct either. That's the center of mass collisional energy. Individual particles can reach half that, or 7 TeV.
  • The blurb above looks like a Dr. Evil quote -- I assume you realize that "14 trillion eV" is a miniscule amount of energy? It's about 2 micro Joules, or .5 microcalories.

    On the scale of a single particle, this is a tremendous amount of energy (for comparison, the energy scale for chemical reactions such as combustion is a few eV). Imprtaing so much energy to a particle (as well as powering the detectors, cooling appartus etc) means the whole collider has a massive energy budget -- way way bigger than 14

  • by porkThreeWays (895269) on Tuesday May 15, 2007 @01:12PM (#19132801)
    There's a youtube video out there (I really wish I could find it) and it has the IT manager for the project. I have to wonder a little bit about him because he was asked why they didn't go with the cell processor instead of Intel based processors. His answer was "The P4's have better floating point processing". I could understand a lot of reasons to go with the P4 because there are a lot of good x86 programmers out there and they could reuse a lot of code etc etc. Has anyone else seen this video?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Axello (587958)
      I would think with a project that's 7 years in the making, that they settle on a stable technology in an early stage. Cell processors are nice, but were they available, oh let's say: last summer?

      The early stages of the analysis are often in dedicated hardware, because general purpose processors are not fast enough. You need to connect those systems together as well. Then you need to debug these software beasts, since they need to make a good mathematical analysis 30 million times a second. And with 7000
    • His answer was "The P4's have better floating point processing".

      Yeah? From Wikipedia: "Due to the nature of its applications, Cell is optimized towards single precision floating point computation. The SPEs are capable of performing double precision calculations, albeit with an order of magnitude performance penalty."

      So, maybe P4 fairs better? He might not be a blithering idiot. Note: the P4 code should run just fine on the latest Xeons with the Core architecture (a.k.a smokin').

      IIRC the Athlons also do
  • by Anonymous Coward
    'The physicists, wearing hardhats, kneepads and safety harnesses

    The kneepads are for when the Senators, Representatives, various goverment functionaries, and lobbyists [wisegeek.com] visit.
  • 14 TeV is the amount of energy that is in a collision from two 7TeV beams colliding. In this case, the beam means particles (protons) accelerated to carry 7TeV of momentum. But that's just one "particle". The LHC, there are many "buckets" of particles being stored and collided and the total stored energy around the whole ring is 360MegaJoules. It is fairly easy to calculate actually:

    There are 2808 bunches around the ring, each containing 1.15x10^{11} protons each with 7TeV of momentum. 7TeV = 7x10^{12}

    • by kindbud (90044)
      Oh, btw, the power consumption of the LHC only (excluding the detectors) is ~120MW.

      I am pretty sure that most of that 120MW is used to power the electromagnets that confine the beams.

      14 TeV is the amount of energy that is in a collision from two 7TeV beams colliding. In this case, the beam means particles (protons) accelerated to carry 7TeV of momentum. But that's just one "particle". The LHC, there are many "buckets" of particles being stored and collided and the total stored energy around the whole ring i
      • by kindbud (90044)
        Way to not read the comment I'm replying to. My figure was for one 14 TeV collision. As the parent to my post out, there are many more particles accelerated to that energy level within the ring.

        362 million joules = 100,555.556 watt hours [google.com]
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by perturbed1 (1086477)
        Err.... Actually, this power does not go into the electromagnets directly. The electromagnets happen to be superconducting magnets, which, once powered, do not require more current. That's not where the power goes. The power goes into keeping it cool. 18kW of synchrotron radiation is dumped into the cryogenics system. The syncrotron radiation is due to the relativistic charged particles curving under the influence of the magnetic fields, but this dumped energy needs to be extracted before it results in a
        • by kindbud (90044)
          Oh cool. :) I hope it's not along the lines of "How do we point this thing at that idiot so we can blow his brains out?"
          • Naa. We *have* thought about pointing it towards Redmond though. (They should try suing CERN. I am sure we'd love that.)

            The conversation went "Oh, but we just paid so much money for the damn superconducting magnets? Why do they still eat so much power?" "Oh-oh" (Ok, there were no machine engineers around, but a bunch of physicists. The machine engineers though want to blow out the brains of physicists on a regular basis, who they consider idiots... So you see, it is all in good humor.) Luckily, we still

  • by teal_ (53392)
    Let me be the first to admit that I don't understand how this works. Will the mass of Slashdot users who pretend to understand follow suit, or will they shun me? :)
  • ... a 60-megapixel digital camera taking 40 million pictures a second.

    I want that camera. The data throughput must be staggering.

    Of course, I'm curious how it can do 40 million pictures per second, if particles being spun around the track by superconductors can only collide 20 million times per second. I know it's a 17 mile track, but still, taking that as a base for the maximum speed you can get a particle going, it makes me wonder how you could push 60 million pixels worth of data over even a short span of cable, 40 million times per second... I'd love to see more info ju

  • Corrected summary (Score:3, Informative)

    by l0b0 (803611) on Tuesday May 15, 2007 @03:00PM (#19134695) Homepage

    Circumference = 27 kilometers (~17.5 miles), cost = 8 billion USD (presumably, and only for the construction), energy consumption = ~120 MW, particle energy = 14 TeV.

    More interesting statistics [web.cern.ch] are available on the LHC outreach site.

    What a half-assed attempt at a submission. Even the title is a mix between the SSC [bbc.co.uk] and the LHC.

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