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LHC revs up

Atom smasher achieves most energetic collisions yet

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2:26pm, March 30, 2010

By all accounts, the Large Hadron Collider’s first day of bashing protons was a smashing success. The powerful machine at CERN, Europe’s high-energy physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, got off to a rocky start on March 30. But by early afternoon (Geneva time), two 3.5 trillion electron volt beams were colliding head-on.

The collisions in the 27-kilometer-long accelerator set a new record for the highest energy crash of subatomic particles.

“Today, we opened the door and put our nose through it,” says physicist Jurgen Schukraft, spokesperson for CERN’s ALICE experiment, which is tasked with exploring new types of matter produced in the high-energy collisions. 

Researchers have routinely circulated beams at 3.5 TeV since March 19, but had not yet collided them. Around 1 pm local time, CERN tweeted “Experiments have seen collisions!!!!!!!!!!!” followed quickly by “First time in the history!!!!!!!!!!!! World record!!!!!!!!”

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