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Two beams for Cern

Tom Feilden | 14:31 UK time, Wednesday, 10 September 2008

atlas203.jpgThe big "switch-on" of the Large Hadron collider has exceeded everyone's wildest expectations.

A few moments ago the operations team managed to get both streams of protons circulating in opposite directions around the whole ring. Speaking in the main control room a delighted director general Robert Aymar declared: "It is now time for the physics to begin."

Things had got off to a shaky start earlier in the day. You could see the strain etched on the faces of control room staff - and the hundreds of physicists, engineers and support staff who had crammed in to every conceivable corner of the room to watch.

And then, just a few minutes behind schedule, came the moment everyone had been waiting for: first beam.

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Since then things have developed rapidly.

Lyn Evans had allowed for a whole day to get the beam round the whole machine once. Riding the wave he ordered the injection of the second beam to be brought forward. Astonishingly that's now completed its own journey going in the other direction.

All in all a staggering success, and a great day for physics....the LHC works. Now, where's that Higgs Boson?


  • Comment number 1.

    Congratulations to everyone involved, a superb first day for a international project which has shown how people from many countries and many disciplines can work in harmony for the advancement of human knowledge. Money well spent, and I can't wait to see the results of this monument to human ingenuity and intelligence.

  • Comment number 2.

    As a condensed matter physicist working with vacuum chambers and cryogenics on a daily basis, I cannot help but be filled with a sense of wonder over the LHC and particle colliders the world over. It is difficult enough obtaining an ulter high vacuum in the piddly thing (by comparrison) in my lab. I cannot comprehend the sheer scale of the engineering required to pump down the LHC and keep so many superconducting coils at liquid helium temperatures.

    Everyone involved in the project should be commended, not only for getting the machine working but for getting it working so beautifully in such a short space of time.

    Simply remarkable.

  • Comment number 3.

    Not so much the advancement of human knowledge, but the advancement of the management team's summer residences, I would have thought. Call me cynical if you like, but I, and the rest of humanity, can live without esoteric knowledge at this price. Outlawing the production of plug-in air fresheners and the like might be more conducive to the preservation of the planet.

  • Comment number 4.

    Does this actually mean that they have collided the particles or have they only sent the beams round? will they have to collide them another day to see the after effects of the big bang? This is what everyone is stressing over including myself ... i was very scared of the unknown. Well done to the scientists that successfully sent the beams round though.

  • Comment number 5.


    Each year the UK spends more on peanuts than we contribute to the LHC. Surely the expansion of our knowledge of the universe is worth more than peanuts?

  • Comment number 6.

    A fabulous achievement. Some cynics may indeed wonder about the cost of this project to advance human knowledge. I happen to think that human ignorance is even more expensive. As a biologist, with more than a passing interest in pure physics, I would make the observation that many advances in technology in human life have their roots in pure science such as this truly significant achievement. Money definitely well spent.

  • Comment number 7.

    Well done, all very exciting stuff and I love science even though I don't fully understand some of the gargon. Well done to all but my concern was that through out the day young children, teenagers and some adults had some very real fears that the earth will end. You may say don't be silly etc but the fear is very real to those who have concerns. Did CERN review this as part of their safety plan or ask what the people think?

    Also I had a question, whislt under strick controls under the earth, the so called BIG BANG happened is space outside our protective atmosphere. So are the controls demonstarting the same conditions?

    In addition, my thought is, coupled with a lack of understanding, is that it was created out of nothing. It was the spoken word that caused things to come into being, going beyond that was the thought pattern was electrical inpluses that generate that thought. Plus the earth was void and formless. There was an energy in the beginning, no doubt as the sun was created after that first light - check out the bible. Whilst I find this so exciting it is the Spirit of God that holds all things altogether and this still remains regardless of what they find. Just proves to me that God is so great in both the large and the small. God is infinate, all knowing, all powerful and everywhere. Study the attributes of God and the science within the bible which makes incrediable sense and science refer to.
    To conclude I am waiting with excitment of CERNs findings as it will be interesting as long as it is not at the risk of mankind, forget the insurance payout no-one will be here lol!

  • Comment number 8.

    If they want to study dark matter they should come round my house after a big night out on the Guinness.

    It would save a whole lot of time and money.

  • Comment number 9.

    My 8 year old son heard about the Big Bang scientific experiment from a school friend yesterday. He came asking lots of questions about what was going to happen and went to bed convinced we were all going to be catapaulted into a black hole before the night was out!! In the middle of the night he came into my room saying he couldnt sleep so got in bed with me. 4 times during the night he got out of bed and went to the window and peered through the curtains to "check" and make sure we were still here!! I woke him up at 7.30 this morning and said come and watch the BBC News to find out what it is really all about - thanks for good informative coverage it has been fascinating for us all to watch and hear!!

  • Comment number 10.

    Is this the right place to ask a question?
    Can you let me know why the magnets need to be cooled to such a low temp?
    If you can't answer please let me know where to ask.

  • Comment number 11.


    The experiment is carried out in very cold conditions (close to absolute zero), in a vacuum, so it replicates the conditions of space quite well.

    Also, please remember that not everyone believes in God and the Bibles version of creation. Where as you think that you already know how the universe was created, there are many of us whole look forward to finding out how it was really done. It does worry me that you state that your beliefs won't change regardless of what they find, despite not knowing what it is they will turn up. If even indisputable evidence doesn't convince you that what you believe isn't true, you should seriously start to ponder why you believe what you believe and if there is any rational for thinking that way. I'm not trying to knock your beliefs, I just don't think you should be so certain that you're right.

    But back to the main point, don't worry everything will be fine!!!

    I bet you £10,000 the world won't end!!!


  • Comment number 12.

    The electromagnets need to be cooled to reduce their electrical resistance to near zero (they become superconductors only at these very low temperatures). This superconductance allows massive currents without the coils heating and melting. The currents need to be very large to produce a large magnetic field to curve the path of the rapidly moving protons.

  • Comment number 13.

    Can't help feeling that as with most new experiments invetigating unknowns, we won't begin to understand the results for many years to come. So it's more likely to be a damp squib rather than big bag for the vast majority of people.

    Just remember the "Big Bang" is a theory not proven fact, very similar to God in many ways, so I seriously doubt we will get any incontrovertable proof from any time soon.

  • Comment number 14.


    I trust you are applying the same logic to your own beliefs.

    We all carry presuppositions - yourself included. Question: If God created the world in such a short time, what kind of evidence would you be looking for? If you beleive the world is billions of years old, what kind of evidence would you be looking for.

    Surely you cannot berate someone for raising the 'spritual' - the very nature of this experiemnt touches the subject head on: origins.

    I believe in Prof. Hakwins observation: we will not find the Higgs Boson - instead - something marvelous we were not expecting. Intelligent design?

    Regardles, a science experiment truly facinating to follow.

  • Comment number 15.

    Is there going to be a Global warming issue?

    Superheated particles (being cooled) where does the heat go ?

  • Comment number 16.

    It's ironic that those who say we don't need progress are expressing themselves through the internet, something developed by Sir Tim B-L while he was at CERN.

    We have to do something with our opposing thumbs.

  • Comment number 17.

    As an engineer I have nothing but admiration for all the people involved in this project and what they have achieved is a fantastic achievement.

    If it means that mankind can crack some of the secrets about the some of the laws of the universe in the way that cracking the DNA code did for our understanding of human make up then it will be well worth it.

    Sadly as I am now sixty eight years of age I will not live long enough to see how many of the results that will come from these experiments and be of benefit to mankind well into the future.

    Let me just say for now I take my hat off to all of them

  • Comment number 18.

    What a day. Well done one and all, a great achievement. This is the pursuit of excellence at its very finest and has to be applauded. Surely a defining attribute of humankind is its ability to keep looking outward, and to keep an open mind: I collide particles, therefore I am? The amount of money involved is tiny compared to, say, the Millennium Dome, on-line gambling or the West Coast rail link. The results of the experiments at CERN will open doors hitherto unimaginable. Keep going, and remember to feed the meter.

  • Comment number 19.


    I would naturally apply the same logic to my beliefs, were I to truly have any. I prefer to look at the different theories and then award them merit based on supporting evidence. If someone were to ask me "Which do you think is more likely to have happened, the Big Bang theory or the Genesis Theory", I would answer "the Big Bang Theory, based on the evidence I've seen", or something along those lines. If someone were to show me good evidence to support the Genesis theory, I would consider it, and then perhaps change my leanings depending on what evidence I'd been shown. This hasn't yet happened. The point I was trying to pick up on with corkbarkins was that stating that you wouldn't change your beliefs regardless of what evidence he(or she, it could be a she after all) was shown is a bit
    of a dangerous path to be going down. I hope he(possibly she) wasn't called up for jury duty for instance.

    In answer to your question.
    I don't think there is evidence to support the "6 day creation theory". This may be because it hasn't been discovered yet, or it may be because it doesn't exist. So far as I know not many people are looking for it.

    There is also very good evidence to support the idea that the world is billions of years old. Years of data gathering and studying of that data by Geologists has turned up good evidence to support their theory that the world is as old as they think it is. And by good evidence I mean things you can see yourself, like the wonderful layers in the cliffs by the sea or the worn away valleys caused by millions of years of erosion. Obviously these in themselves don't prove the world is billions of years old, but they would certainly back the statement "the world 'as is' wasn't created in 6 days."

    Science and theology are both such interesting subjects, it's just a shame they need mix so often.

  • Comment number 20.

    As a Catholic, I wish people wouldn't conflate a belief in a higher power (that we'll call God for simplicity's sake) with the idea that the bible is a literal version of events.

    Belief in God does not necessarily mean that the Earth (and by extension universe) was created in seven days.

    It is perfectly practical to believe that God created the whole beautiful interplay that the LHC is trying to unravel; he didn't create woman out of the spare rib of man - he created the framework of bosons and particles and rules which allowed this universe to come into existence.

  • Comment number 21.

    In comment 7 corkbarkins exhorted us to check the Bible, by which he obviously meant Genesis. I don't see why I should look again at that particular book written millennia ago by scribes wise for their time but whose knowledge of nature is exceeded today by kids in their second year of schooling. Why should I, when when God wrote his own Book directly -- from which the LHC is going to read to us.

    Disclaimer: The Deity referred to this message may not bear any resemblance to any Deity living or dead and may be a synonym for nature or the universe.

  • Comment number 22.

    44 yeras ago my brother and I played in our playroom with the AAA Electronics Engineering kits, all the diodes, capcitors transistors etc. making radios and so forth. Today he heads up the CMS detector team!!Its a great day for him and a day of pride for me and our family.

  • Comment number 23.

    "Did CERN review this as part of their safety plan or ask what the people think?"

    They probably didn't anticipate there would be such concerns. The last biggest yet particle accelerator to come online was the tevatron in the US in 1983, approximately a seventh of the power the LHC will be able to manage. While there was even a legal attempt to stop it (over the same fears), back then with the lack of the internet and general media coverage meant the average person didn't know anything about it so no one worried.

    These days ofcourse you have a faster spread of much larger amounts of information and news, and with the media's love of sensationalising everything, a machine "to attempt to recreate and study conditions shortly after the big bang on a very small scale" becomes a machine "to recreate the big bang!".

    And then one of the scaremongers manages to get hold of a reporter and you get a nice story about the end of the earth and black holes and things. And ofcourse everyone's seen star trek etc so know that black holes are huge nasty things that suck in everything and so people get needlessly scared.

    These kind of collisions happen at greater energies all the time in the upper levels of the atmosphere. Unfortunately getting a 12500 tonne detector up there isn't possible and even if you could it wouldn't be a controlled environment so much of the data gained would be useless.

  • Comment number 24.

    If both streams of protons are travelling in opposite directions within a few percent of the speed of light, isn't their relative speed therefore greater than the speed of light? What does this mean, if all things are relative, and Albert says nothing can accelerate to the speed of light?

  • Comment number 25.

    Can someone explain why the LHC was built in a circle rather than a straight line with a beam being fired from each end and colliding in the middle? Surely the latter would have avoided the need for all the engineering required to curve the paths of the protons?

  • Comment number 26.

    This project has cost billions of pounds. Surely this money would be better spent on the starving, homeless and health care. What a huge waste of money for absolutely nothing, mark my words!

  • Comment number 27.

    @ 24:

    If the two particles A and B are headed towards each other with velocities of u and v, then under special relativity the speed B is heading towards A from A’s point of view is not simply just u + v, it’s actually (u+v)/(1+uv/c^2) where c is the speed of light. At low speeds uv/c^2 is essentially zero since c is so huge, it’s not until high speeds that this becomes relevant. Using that, if the two particles are travelling at 0.9c from our POV, the collision speed will not be 1.8c but 0.9945c, bizarre as it may sound, this kind of stuff has actually been tested and measured to be true.

    A qualitative explanation would be: since the length of moving objects contracts, then from As POV whizzing around the LHC, the tunnel has shortened considerably so B travelling the other way doesn’t actually look to be going that fast relative to the tunnel. (there’s a considerable number of (better) explanations of special and general relativity on wikipedia and the wider internet, just put ‘special relativity’ in a search engine)

    25: The LHC needs to be a loop to get the speeds up, it takes some time to get the particles up to the speeds needed which would simply not be possible on a straight line accelerator (it would be huge).

  • Comment number 28.

    Does a CERN physicist use a kaleidoscope?

  • Comment number 29.

    "This project has cost billions of pounds. Surely this money would be better spent on the starving, homeless and health care. What a huge waste of money for absolutely nothing, mark my words!"

    The cost of the LHC is a meer fraction of a percent of global GDP. I forget the percentage, but it is something like 0.01%. Perhaps a bit larget, perhaps a bit smaller - I can't remember the precise value.

    If that doesn't convince you that this experiment is actually relatively cheap, then consider this: the MoD defence budget is £40billion a year, or, about 6 times the cost of the LHC project. Given that the UK's investment is substantially less than £1 billion, I'd say that we've actually got an amazingly cheap experiment.

  • Comment number 30.

    exactly there are people in the world that need food and water and all the basic things that you need just to get by

    surely the money would have been better spend on helping these people instead of risking litrally the whole planet!!!!!

  • Comment number 31.

    Can someone please explain where the two groups of positively charged particles in the CERN Hadron particle accelerator are started in opposite directions in the single ring if they both have to complete a circuit of the ring without colliding prematurely?

  • Comment number 32.

    im still very worried about all of this and i believe the money would be best spent on the less fortunate than ourselves.....

    i think its a bit mindless to spend it on a project that could basically gobble the earth up!!!

    i dont recall anyone doing a vote on wether this project should go ahead and i for one would vote against it!

    i'm happy to take risks for myself but i wouldn't take them on behalf of other let alone the whole planet!!!!

    i read the odds are something like 1000-1 chance but what if we unlucky and become the '1' if u get my meaning???

    and no one on this planet will be able to fix if it starts to go wrong , its just not worth the risk even if it is to find the 'god particle' or 'higgs boson'

    some things god made us for us not to understand and this is 1 of those things!

    this is really frightening stuff!!!!!

  • Comment number 33.

    Scientists say there is a very low chance of black holes being created. HOW HIGH DOES A CHANCE HAVE TO BE BEFORE IT'S SIGNIFICANT? How high does the chance have to be before you say 'this is too great a risk'? Surely if the existence of our universe is at stake, the risk is too great as soon as it exceeds zero, as soon as black holes being created is at all possible.


    They say the human race needs to innovate to survive and that this experiment is a possible way to innovate, but seeing as there's a chance the world will be destroyed in the process shouldn't we save this experiment until the human race is in desperate need of innovation?

  • Comment number 34.

    As we're looking at the structures of atoms will we discover how to make even deadlier weopons than we have already, thus bringing those weopons into existence? After all, if we had never found aout about nuclear energy then surely this atomic bomb, which has killed horrific numbers of people, would never have been created

  • Comment number 35.

    #30, #32, #33: Please research some elementary quantum physics before ranting in such an inflammatory way. If you took the time to understand the workings of everything involved, then you would understand that these extremely tiny black holes cease to exist an infintessimally small amount of time after they are created.

    #34: A sub atomic weapon?
    Unlikely. The nearest thing that I can think of would be a matter/antimatter explosion, an event which is as near to impossible to control as makes no difference - plus, it would most likely destroy the world if we could generate one.
    Worry not, the atomic bomb is the most destructive thing that humanity will be able to create for an extremely long time.



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