Q: What is the Large Hadron Collider?
It is the world's most powerful particle accelerator. It is buried inside a 17-mile tunnel and surrounded by massive detectors.
Q: What does “hadron” refer to?
It is a particle, such as a proton or neutron, found in the nucleus of an atom.
Q: How does the collider work?
The collider fires protons around the tunnel at near the speed of light — more than 186,000 miles per second. Supercooled magnets guide the protons in opposite directions around a near-vacuum until they collide at four points inside the tunnel.
Q: What do the detectors do?
As protons collide, the detectors will search for evidence of extra dimensions — apart from the three dimensions of space and one dimension of time.
They will also look for the “dark matter” thought to make up most of the universe, antimatter that mirrors all known matter, and the elusive Higgs-boson particle — sometimes called the “God particle,” because it is believed to give mass to all other particles. All of these have previously only been theorized, but not confirmed.
One of the detectors will smash together lead ions to simulate conditions shortly after the “big bang”— the event believed to have created the universe 13.7 billion years ago. Scientists hope to learn from this how matter was formed.
Q: What else do scientists hope to learn from the experiment?
If the collider proves the existence of new particles, it could test the dominant physics hypothesis of “string theory,” which seeks to reconcile quantum mechanics and gravity in an all-encompassing formula.
Q: Will the collider prove the existence of God?
The experiment will examine what happened shortly after the universe was created. It does not seek to confirm or deny the existence of any supernatural being.