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About the Experiment

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On September 10th, CERN - the largest centre of particle physics research in the world, will switch on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and in the process begin arguably the most ambitious science experiment ever undertaken. This "Big Bang Machine" will recreate conditions just a billionth of a second after the big bang and in the process may answer some of the most profound questions about our universe and how it all began.

By smashing particles together at speeds 99.99% the speed of light, scientists hope to answer some of the greatest mysteries in particle physics. What is mass? What is dark matter - the invisible but massive substance that fills the universe? Why is there no antimatter ? Are extra dimensions and parallel universes science fact rather than science fiction?

In order to answer these deep questions about the cosmos, the LHC will whiz tiny subatomic particles, known as protons, around a giant ring-shaped tunnel, 27km in circumference that runs 100 metres below the Swiss/French countryside. The particles will then be smashed together 600 million times per second, and the results recorded and observed by four huge detectors that sit in cathedral-sized chambers, deep underground. The experiment will generate 40,000 gigabytes of data each day, which will be analysed by a virtual supercomputer made up of 100,000 processors around the world, linked by the Internet.

It's taken 20 years of preparation, 10 billion dollars and has involved more than 10,000 scientists from 70 countries. Scientists have called the LHC the greatest scientific endeavour since the Apollo moon landings, and it heralds a new era in our understanding of the universe we live in.

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