How does the Large Hadron Collider work?
Dimensions and the Large Hadron Collider
While there are four known dimensions known to our world
now, those being the three spatial dimensions and the fourth dimension of time,
there are theories that only make any sense when it is assumed that there are
several other dimensions that we are unaware of. There are certain string
theories which state as many as eleven other dimensions and string theorists,
those that believe this theory, hope that the LHC will help them prove these
other dimensions exist and provide more information about them. String theorists
believe that matter isn’t created from particles at all but strings and that
depending on the state of the string at the time it is studied, it can appear to
be different things. This means that should it be vibrating, it could appear as
an electron and when still it could appear as a neutrino, or vice versa. String
theorists are hoping that the new evidence provided by the LHC will prove their
theories as accurate and quiet the critics.
There are many critics of string theories, and this
is largely in part due to the fact that string theories incorporate the fourth
fundamental principle of the universe, gravity, which other theories do not do
without also including another theory. There is also no proof that these strings
exist and there is no way to perform tests on them. This leads some scientists
to consider them more philosophies rather than actual theories.
The Specs of the Large Hadron Collider
Being the largest machine in the world, you would
expect it to have some fairly impressive specifications and indeed, it has many.
This huge machine is made up of eight different sectors. Each sector is in the
shape of an arc and at the end of each arc is a different section called an
insertion. The circumference of the LHC is an astounding 27 kilometers around
and the massive accelerator tubes and collision chambers are buried deep within
100 meters of earth. There are different points situated around the
circumference of the LHC that contain elevators or stairways that scientists can
take to reach the machine. CERN, which stands for the European Organization for
Nuclear Research, is the organization that has constructed the LHC and they are
in the process of designing many above-ground stations along the same points so
that those studying the effects of the LHC can be close to any events
surrounding the LHC and the results that it may produce.
The LHC houses 9,600 impressive magnets. These
magnets help to steer the protons in the proper direction as the protons travel
very close to the speed of light. The magnets are massive and some weigh several
tons but they are all cooled to a temperature of 1.9 degrees Kelvin, which is
-271.25 Celsius. This is close to the temperature of absolute zero! The reason
for getting the magnets this cold is because magnets will not operate when
electrical fields interfere however the electrical fields become a non-issue for
the magnets when they are this cold. Not only is the cold temperature impressive
in itself but so is the means used to get them to this temperature. 10,800 tons
of liquid nitrogen are used to get the magnets to a temperature of -193.2. It is
at this temperature that liquid helium becomes a useful cooling source and 60
tons of this substance is used to get the magnets to the full -271.25 degrees.
The pipes that the protons travel through as they are being accelerated at high
speeds are ultra high vacuums. This is so that while the protons are being
transported, they don’t collide with any other particles until they reach the
proper collision points. Something as small as one molecule of gas colliding
with a particle during transport could ruin an entire experiment.
There are six different areas along the
circumference of the LHC that are designated areas for experiments and
observations. Each area operates much like a microscope with a large digital
camera attached to it would. Some of these devices are huge and ATLAS, which is
just one such device, is 45 meters long, stands at 25 meters and weighs over
7,000 tons! The LHC and the different devices contain 150 million sensors in
total. These sensors allow the LHC to collect information and send it to the
computing devices aboveground. The amount of data that will be gathered during
experiments will be approximately 700 megabytes per second. This means that over
the course of a year, the LHC could collect as much as 15 petabytes of data.
That’s enough to fill over 100,000 DVDs!
However, a machine that powerful takes something to run it and in the case of
the LHC, it is powered by electricity – and a lot of it! Over the course of the
same year, the LHC will use approximately 800,000 megawatt hours of energy,
which is almost 30 million dollars in electricity bills for the year. And
consider that this is only the cost of running the machine in the warm months as
the facility will not operate it in the cold winter months.
While electricity, the cost to run the experimental
stations around the circumference of the LHC and all it takes to get the machine
running properly, such as the cost of cooling the magnets, are all part of the
machine’s operating cost, consider also how much it cost to build the entire
device. Construction alone of the Large Hadron Collider cost over $6 billion
dollars to build.
The Big Bang, Matter, and the LHC
How the Large Hadron Collider Experiments Work
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