for National Geographic News
The world's largest atom smasher's first experiment went off today without a hitch, paving the way toward the recreation of post-big bang conditions.
The Large Hadron Collider fired a beam of protons inside a circular, 17-mile (27-kilometer) long tunnel underneath villages and cow pastures at the French-Swiss border.
Inside the control room, physicists and engineers cautiously shot the beam down part of the tunnel, stopping it before it went all the way around.
"Oh, we made it through!" one person cried as the beam made it through a further section of the tunnel.
One hour after starting up, on the first attempt to send the beam circling all the way around the tunnel, it completed the trip successfully—bringing raucous applause.
"First of all, I didn't believe it," said Verena Kain, a European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) engineer.
"I had to see it a second time, and I thought, Oh, wow, it actually worked!"
"Things can go wrong at any time, but luckily this morning everything went smoothly," said Lyn Evans of CERN, who oversaw the building of the accelerator.
(Also see "Large Hadron Collider Rap Video Is a Hit" [September 10, 2008].
Birth of the Universe
The collider "was first proposed more than 20 years ago," said Django Manglunki, an accelerator physicist at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), on Tuesday. "We've been preparing that beam for more than ten years."
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