Skip to Content

Starting Up the World’s Biggest Experiment

Turning on the Large Hadron Collider, CERN begins a new era of particle physics.
September 10, 2008

The biggest physics experiment in history started up early this morning. At 4:27 A.M. eastern time, two proton beams made their first laps around the 27-kilometer tunnel of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) outside Geneva. By late fall, once the behemoth has gotten warmed up, physicists at CERN hope to achieve particle collisions with an energy of five trillion electron volts; eventually, they’ll bump it up to seven trillion. As Nobel laureate and MIT Institute Professor Jerome Friedman wrote in our May/June issue, these collisions should help answer some of physics’s most fundamental questions: Why do particles have mass? Are there spatial dimensions beyond the ones we know? There will also likely be some surprises, if history is a guide.

Credit: CERN

But today’s switch-on, though momentous, was only the first step–what the New York Times this morning compared to turning on a car engine for the first time. That’s because this car needs to rev particles to near the speed of light, at temperatures near absolute zero. For a look at the immense and gorgeous inner workings of the accelerator, see our photo essay.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

Large language models can do jaw-dropping things. But nobody knows exactly why.

And that's a problem. Figuring it out is one of the biggest scientific puzzles of our time and a crucial step towards controlling more powerful future models.

OpenAI teases an amazing new generative video model called Sora

The firm is sharing Sora with a small group of safety testers but the rest of us will have to wait to learn more.

The problem with plug-in hybrids? Their drivers.

Plug-in hybrids are often sold as a transition to EVs, but new data from Europe shows we’re still underestimating the emissions they produce.

Google DeepMind’s new generative model makes Super Mario–like games from scratch

Genie learns how to control games by watching hours and hours of video. It could help train next-gen robots too.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.