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Physicists Celebrate Successful Trial Of Particle Collider

September 11, 2008

Experts in labs across the globe celebrated the first monumental achievement of a test conducted by the immensely complex Large Hadron Collider (LHC) on Wednesday.

Physicists in Switzerland rejoiced as the world’s largest atom smasher passed its first test on its way to revealing how the tiniest particles were created after the “big bang.”

Meanwhile, scientists at a satellite viewing party near Chicago reveled in the LHC’s introduction as physicists successfully fired beam of protons clockwise around the 17-mile tunnel of the collider deep under the rolling fields along the Swiss-French border.

Soon thereafter, they succeeded in sending another beam in the counterclockwise direction.

“Well done everybody,” said Robert Aymar, director-general of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, to cheers from the assembled scientists in the collider’s control room at the Swiss-French border.

The physicists celebrated with champagne when the white dots flashed on the blue screens of the control room, showing a successful crossing of the finish line on the $10 billion machine under planning since 1984.

“The first technical challenge has been met,” said a jubilant Robert Aymar, director-general of CERN. “What you have just seen is the result of 20 years of effort. It all went like clockwork. Now it’s for the physicists to show us what they can do.

Experts will continue to fill the beams with more protons to be fired at near the speed of light around the tunnel. At four points in the tunnel, the scientist will use giant magnets to cross the beams and cause protons to collide. It is likely to be several weeks before the first significant collisions.

Rivals of the experiment claim that it could create tiny black holes that could suck in the whole planet.

“It’s nonsense,” said James Gillies, chief spokesman for CERN, before Wednesday’s start.

CERN is backed by leading scientists like Britain’s Stephen Hawking in dismissing the fears and declaring the experiments to be absolutely safe.

Gillies said the only risk would be if a beam at full power were to go out of control, and that would only damage the accelerator itself and burrow into the rock around the tunnel.

The Big Bang is thought to have occurred 15 billion years ago when an unimaginably dense and hot object the size of a small coin exploded in a void, spewing out matter that expanded rapidly to create stars, planets and eventually life on Earth.

The project organized by the 20 European member nations of CERN has attracted researchers from 80 nations. Some 1,200 are from the United States, an observer country that contributed $531 million. Japan, Canada, Russia and India – also observers – are other major contributors.

Project leader Evans admitted he wasn’t sure how long it would take before the team could witness high-energy collisions.

“I don’t know how long it will take,” he said. “I think what has happened this morning bodes very well that it will go quickly … This is a machine of enormous complexity. Things can go wrong at any time. But this morning we had a great start.”

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