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The electromagnetic and hadron calorimeters make up the center of the 49-foot-high, 69-foot-long Compact Muon Solenoid, an instrument designed to probe the nature of mass itself by finding the elusive Higgs boson particle. Scientists believe the Higgs boson causes mass to exist, and have nicknamed it “the God particle.” These calorimeters measure the energy of particles that fly off after a collision.
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The LHC beauty (LHCb) experiment is designed to explain why there is more matter than anti-matter in the universe. To do that, LHCb looks at bottom-quarks—superheavy particles four times the mass of a proton—thrown off in proton collisions. The calorimeter measures the energy of particles escaping from the collision, which helps determine their identity.
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Located between 160 and 500 feet underground, a 16.57-mile-long chain of magnets guides the proton beams to the four experiment stations. The tunnel was originally dug for an older accelerator called the LEP, which was dismantled by 2001 to make room for the more powerful LHC.
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Another component of the LHCb experiment is the tracking system. The inner tracker uses a silicon strip to detect particles, while the outer tracker uses tubes of gas. Together, they monitor the paths of the particles as they fly out of the proton crashes. By combining data about the particle velocity along those paths with the energy data from the calorimeter, the researchers can determine the mass and identity of particles flying out of the accelerator.
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The LHC’s six experiments are located deep beneath the Earth’s surface and insulated from a world rife with radioactive interference, making it no easy feat to load all of the enormous equipment into place. The components for each experiment were lowered hundreds of feet below ground through giant tunnels like this one.
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During his three-day shoot, New York–based photographer Enrico Sacchetti observed more than just the LHC. He was also witness to the international community of scientists that walk the halls of the largest experiment in human history. “They feel like they’re on a quest for mankind,” he says. From the nights out in Geneva to the cliques in the cafeteria, the researchers from around the world gather by project, each group pursuing their research with a sense of competition usually reserved for the football field. See all of PopSci’s coverage of the Large Hadron Collider at popsci.com/lhc.