Scientists operating the world’s biggest ‘‘Big Bang Machine’‘ have smashed together proton beams for the first time. The collisions in the Large Hadron Collider housed in a 27-kilometre tunnel under the French-Swiss border came sooner than expected and engineers described the step as a ‘great achievement.’It’s hoped the experiment will reveal the origins of the universe itself. “It’s the end of 20 years of efforts of the international scientific community to build a machine and detectors of unprecedented complexity and technological challenges and it’s the beginning of, I hope, a fantastic era of physics, exploration, of discovery,’‘ said physicist Fabiola Gianotti. By crashing particles together, the CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research) project aims to recreate the conditions present immediately after the ‘Big Bang’ some 13.7 billion years ago. Scientists want to find the so-called Higgs boson, the mysterious sub-atomic particle many believe is crucial to understanding the universe. But, beams in the collider are not expected to hit top speed until 2011.