January 11, 2009

2009: The Year of the LHC

CERN starts shooting protons again this year (and they're on twitter!), and after months of delays, the excitement is starting to build. Check out photos of the LHC first beam from September 1o, 2008. Each image shows the debris of particles, or the stuff that results in a collision of proton beams traveling at 99.9999991% the speed of light. All kinds of particles show up on these images (which are recorded at the rate of 600 million collisions per second), most of them already discovered and catalogued, but the elusive Higgs boson is still at large. Its discovery would be a huge coup for theoretical physicists and would provide a key piece of the Standard Model puzzle.

Exploring the Mystery of Matter: The ATLAS Experiment by Claudia Marcelloni, Kerry-Jane Lowery, and Kenway Smith is a history of the LHC as well as a fascinating account of the scientists that made the ATLAS experiment happen. (ATLAS, or A Toroidal LHC ApparatuS, is the largest and, some say, most ambitious of the LHC's six detectors.) Also coming out next month is The Quantum Frontier: The Large Hadron Collider by Don Lincoln. Both will get you in the mood for proton smashing.

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