First High Energy Collisions at the LHC

Current schedule is for first 7 TeV center of mass collisions tomorrow (Tuesday) at 9:17 am Geneva time. Injection of the beams will take place after 2 am, ramp up to 3.5 TeV/beam from 3-4 am. For more details of what has been going on recently at the LHC, see here. The schedule for tomorrow is here, a link to the planned webcast is here.

CMS e-commentary is here, ATLAS control room blog here.

Update: I just woke up, a couple minutes after first collisions were observed, 12:57 Geneva time. Collisions are going on now.

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14 Responses to First High Energy Collisions at the LHC

  1. Michael says:

    I tried to post a digest of Mike Lamont’s talk on the commissioning of the LHC machine at Collider Blog.

    Last night there were non-colliding beams, and CMS and some of the other experiments were able to measure the position of the beam using the tracker – the position was within 1 sigma of the correct position.

  2. Eudox says:

    In my country the local media says that the LHC collisions is recriating the Big-Bang. Is that true or just another hype?

  3. Peter Woit says:


    It’s hype. The conditions created at the LHC are not those of the big bang, and the questions we hope it will answer have little to do with the big bang.

  4. Sakura-chan says:

    Electro-weak symmetry breaking sounds so unsexy to the media.

  5. Paul Wells says:

    Well, I don’t think “recreating the big-bang” is a bad analogy.

    Presumably it refers to (possibly) creating a Quark Gluon Plasma in ALICE.

    Science Journalists don’t have an easy job and I think it is better to give a distorted picture than no picture at all.

  6. Paul, I have to concur in general. However, there are ways to convey the importance of what the LHC is doing that have nothing to do with the big bang (which, by the way, is deceiving, since we are doing particle physics and not cosmology down here).

    The LHC is “studying what breaks the symmetry of subatomic force carriers.” The LHC hopes to “produce new so far unseen particles that may teach us more about the organization of the world at its tiniest distance scales”. The LHC will “collide protons at an energy never achieved so far by Man”. The LHC will “allow physicists to prove their conjectures on the origin of mass”. The LHC might “permit us to discover a new world of subatomic bodies, symmetric to ours but so far undiscerned”.

    All of the above is still hype, but slightly more informative and more sober. It took me thirty seconds, and I did a rather sloppy job. I am sure journalists could do that too.


  7. Christine says:

    Unfortunately, the most part of the world population has no idea whatsoever about what each of these means:

    – “breaks the symmetry” (symmetry? Is that an illness or something? Is there a way to repair it?)

    – “subatomic” (don’t know even what an atom is, much less what a “sub” means)

    – “force carriers” (who are these strong guys?)

    – “organization of the world” (the politics of our planet?)

    – “protons” (what?)

    – “mass” (ah, weight)

    – “subatomic bodies, symmetric to ours” (esoteric!)

    This is not a criticism at your attempt, which is better than connecting to the big bang (something that most people recognize as — “see? The scientists are just getting close to what religion already said”). There is a lot of deep ignorance out there. The best to be done, perhaps, would be:

    “The scientists are colliding one type of tiny particle against another to see what is inside them; this is the strongest collision ever attempted, and they hope to learn from it something about these and other particles that make up everything around us”.

  8. SteveB says:

    I agree we should not be too critical of the media. And I do not think we need to denegrate the general public.

    Everyone must have experienced the frustration of having to dumb down your explanations and using less than perfect analogies to try to convince even very smart people on a subject, if they are outside of your own speciality. I know I have had to use some statements that are not quite correct because I did not have the 10 minutes (or 2 pages) I needed to do it right. I think science reporters are in an especially tough role because they have to try to write to both scientists in other fields and also to the general, educated public.

    I do not think the uneducated public typically chooses to read the science reporting, just as I do not choose to read Hollywood gossip. With something as news worthy as the LHC, the reporters *do* have to broaden their audience a bit. Not easy.

    I think Peter did an excellent job explaining difficult material in his book and I have been trying to keep his methods for approaching complex issues in mind when I present in my own specialty.

    I will also mention (with a bit of pride) that my 14 year old daughter is really enjoying the Sean Carroll Dark Matter, Dark Energy, Teaching Company Courses lecture series. She doesn’t quite get how space-time can be expanding, but otherwise is following the material quite well. She also reads New Scientist every week. So, I might suggest you think of the “public” as having many smart, educated people in it, rather than dwelling on the not-so smart and not-so educated portion.


  9. Arun says:

    It is better to let the reader know that they definitely don’t understand something than to mislead them with wrong words and wrong analogies.

  10. Tim van Beek says:

    In Germany, in the news headlines, the LHC was called the “big-bang machine” (the name LHC was mostly left out), telling the audience that “scientists reacreate the big bang and that, for god’s sake, the first collisions proove that the machine does not destroy the earth”.
    And I’m pretty sure that even this description was too boring for most people.
    My favorite anecdote about science literacy is this: Someone with a Ph.D. in computer science asked me about the LHC, and as a little check I first asked back “what is the difference between velocity and acceleration?”.
    Answer: “There is none, if I want velocity and/or acceleration, I hit the gas pedal.”
    True story.

  11. We could discuss what is the best way to communicate to the public what the LHC is and what it does for decades without reaching a consensus.

    My two cents are that there are maybe 85% of people in our planet who we will never reach with our science talk; and an additional 14.5% who is reachable and receptive. We should invest on reaching that 14.5%, by telling them true facts, as hard as they may be.

    So I think Arun summarized it best.


  12. milkshake says:

    Do you think there is a chance of observing events that produce a massive particle from the dark sector? Because if you tell a curious kid that the majority of stuff in our galaxy probably is of some weird type that we know almost nothing about – and we hope to produce this thing and watch its disappearing act, I think the kid is going to be awed by the idea more than by some vague hype about big bang. Its almost like finding out that two thirds of your own family is actually populated by aliens.

  13. John Baez says:

    The LHC is “studying what breaks the symmetry of subatomic force carriers.”

    I’m afraid I have to agree with Christine that this would mean nothing to most people. You could say the LHC is “studying what rotates the electricity of nuclear momentum particles” and it would make just as much sense.

  14. Arun says:

    Dennis Overbye in the New York Times (Week in Review) has this
    “A Primer on the Great Proton Smashup”.

    Pretty good, I thought. In particular:

    “Physicists suspect that the laws of physics evolved as the universe cooled from billions or trillions of degrees in the first moments of the Big Bang to superfrigid temperatures today (3 degrees Kelvin) — the way water changes from steam to liquid to ice as temperatures decline. As the universe cooled, physicists suspect, everything became more complicated. Particles and forces once indistinguishable developed their own identities, the way Spanish, French and Italian diverged from the original Latin.

    By crashing together subatomic particles — protons — physicists create little fireballs that revisit the conditions of these earlier times and see what might have gone on back then, sort of like the scientists in Jurassic Park reincarnating dinosaurs. “

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