After a four-year hiatus, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is firing up again on Tuesday, and despite rumors you might have heard on the web, it can not create a trans-dimensional cross-rip, a black hole or every other techno-babbling apocalypse of science run amok.
As astrophysicist Katie Mack noted Tuesday on Twitter, each time the LHC fires up, “I hear from people who find themselves nervous about some form of disaster, presumably resulting from alarmist science fiction,” she wrote. “Allow me to reassure you: though the LHC is essentially the most powerful particle collider on Earth, it’s barely a game of marbles on the cosmic scale.”
A project of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or Cern, the LHC is a hoop of electromagnets 17 miles in circumference buried under France and Switzerland near Geneva used to speed up beams of particles to incredibly high velocities after which smash them together to check the resulting piece. First smashing protons for science back in 2009, the LHC has led to the invention of greater than 50 recent subatomic particles, and most famously the detection of the long hypothesized Higgs boson, also referred to as the “God particle,” in 2012.
Early LHC collisions took place at around one to 2 trillion electron volts, a measurement of the energy imbued in a particle by accelerating it based on the energy gained by an electron accelerated by a possible of 1 volt. The LHC has run through two previous cycles of experiments, collecting immense amounts of knowledge from 2009 through 2013, after which from 2015 through 2018.
The brand new and third cycle of LHC experiments starting Tuesday will feature particles colliding at a record-breaking 13.6 trillion electron volts.
But while that looks like loads, it’s still relatively insignificant when it comes to what nature does on a regular basis, in accordance with Dr Mack.
Because the Cern website notes, one trillion electron volts is roughly corresponding to the energy released by a flying mosquito.
So while the LHC won’t rip the material of time and space, it could help scientists rip the veil off a few of the secrets of the universe. A Cern blog post notes scientists might be using the LHC to check the more subtle interactions of the Higgs particle in addition to looking for signs of elusive dark matter, a mysterious entity that scientists know makes up about 27% of stuff within the universe, but have never directly observed.