The How the Large Hadron Collider works.

HOW THE LARGE HADRON
COLLIDER WORKS
PART III

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How does the Large Hadron Collider work?



How the Large Hadron Collider Experiments Work

While the exact mechanisms and operating systems behind the LHC are very complex and have taken years to build and improve, the concept behind the machine is very simple. Rotating beams of particles are shot at each other with one beam rotating clockwise and the other beam rotating counter-clockwise. The two beams are accelerated until they reach nearly the speed of light and then the beams are pointed towards each other. The people watching hope that the two beams will collide and that the results will be magnificent. And although this process is incredibly expensive and the results are mysterious, there are many steps needed to be able to even get that far in the experiment process and researches at CERN have already undergone many processes before reaching this point.

Scientists must first produce the protons that will be used during the experiment and before they do this they must remove electrons from hydrogen atoms, which will produce a proton. The protons are then placed into a machine that will shoot the protons into a booster, which will accelerate the protons using radio frequency cavities. Giant magnets within the machine are then used to steer the accelerated protons in the proper direction. Once the beams of protons have reached a high enough level of energy, they are then shot into yet another accelerator where the beams are accelerated so that they move even faster. At this point, the beams will be divided into bunches and each beam will contain 2,808 bunches. It is this last accelerator that will place the beams into the LHC with one beam rotating clockwise and another beam rotating counter-clockwise.

Once the beams are placed into the LHC, they will continue to pick up speed. Getting them to the highest speed possible takes about twenty minutes and when released, the beams will travel around the machine approximately 11,245 times per second. The different beams are set to collide at specified locations, which will be one of the six stations that have been set up around the LHC. Once the machine has been set to make the beams collide there will be over 600 million collisions per second. Once the beams and the protons within them have collided they will disperse as many tiny sub particles. These sub particles are known as quarks and these are the pieces that only exist for less than second before deteriorating. During an experiment, the detectors, which are the six stations set up along the circumference of the machine, are set to track the paths these sub particles take and collect information and send them to a grid of computing devices. It is impossible to make every single proton placed into the machine collide with another proton, because they are so very small. The protons that do not collide are placed inside their own beam and these beams are taken to an area constructed of graphite. The graphite absorbs the beam and therefore, absorbs the protons. This mechanism provides protection in case an experiment should become dangerous or something else happens within the LHC to compromise its integrity.

How the Large Hadron Collider Detectors Work

The six stations located around the circumference of the LHC are known as detectors and while there are four major stations, two of them are quite smaller. They each collect different information and while some of that data overlaps, they are collected in different ways and used for different purposes. There are six detector sites in total and these are called: A Toroidal LHC Apparatus (Atlas), which is the largest; the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS), which is another large detector; A Large Ion Collider Experiment (ALICE); the Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb); the Total Elastic and diffractive cross section measurement (TOTEM), which is one of the smaller sites; and the Large Hadron Collider forward (LHCf). Each station has a team of researchers that use the detector site as their base of operations and these teams can range from a dozen to thousands of people. Each researcher is dedicated to finding new information first and making the newest discovery.

While the fact that the LHC can collect and provide so much data every year is impressive, this fact alone creates its own set of problems. The first being that it can be impossible to know where to begin when there is so much information constantly available. And while analyzing data, it can also become impossible to tell when something is of great importance or when it is useless and irrelevant information, when there is so much to consider. This problem is solved through grid computing, which is a system that takes large sections of information and breaks it down into pieces, analyzing and breaking information down automatically before sending the final reports to a central computer. The equipment that is used at these detector sites to complete all of this gathering of information as well as the grid computer systems is actually not that more advanced than you would find in many businesses today. CERN believes that it is more cost-efficient to invest in many pieces of average equipment rather than go over budget on a few pieces of high-end equipment.

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