It is being hailed as the biggest scientific experiment in history and there were smiles all round in the control room as it got off to a successful start.
Nothing short of life and the universe are at the heart of this research, with the world’s leading physicists taking centre stage.
The aim, on the outskirts of Geneva, is to recreate the conditions of the so-called “Big Bang”.
It has been a case of so far so good. However, experts from the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), who are conducting the test, are in for the long haul.
“To see whether it is scientifically a success in the sense of the great discoveries that we expected to make, that will take somewhat longer,” said Jos Engelen, CERN’s scientific director.
The organisation is strongly denying suggestions by some critics that the experiment could create tiny black holes of intense gravity that could suck in the whole planet.
“The earth and other objects in the universe are being bombarded with cosmic rays,” said Engelen.
“We have measured those cosmic rays and they have energies up to a factor 100 more than we can achieve in our laboratory here. So, the experiments that we are doing have been going on in nature for billions and billions of years. We would not be here if we were doing something risky.”
So what is it all about?
A 27-kilometre circular tunnel, buried deep under the Swiss-French border, is home to what experts say is the most complex machine ever built – the Large Hadron Collider. It is in this huge particle-smashing device that history is being made.
The test will see high-energy collisions – at close to the speed of light – of particles travelling simultaneously in opposite directions. Today, the process of sending particle beams round the tunnel got underway.
It aims to recreate, on a miniature scale, the heat and energy of the “Big Bang” – a concept of the origin of the universe that dominates scientific thinking.
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