It took 16 years and $10 billion dollars, but on the day the Large Hadron Collider was supposed to begin trying to cross its high energy proton beams it didn’t take very long at all for researchers to create the highest-energy particle collisions ever witnessed in an experimental setting. At just after 1 p.m. local time beneath the French-Swiss border, CERN scientists smashed two proton beams moving at 99 percent of the speed of light together at total energies of 7 trillion electron volts.
The result was a soundless proton explosion that heralded a new period of scientific discovery as physicists from around the world try to recreate and study the conditions immediately after the Big Bang, understand the nature of dark energy and dark matter and determine whether the hypothetical Higgs boson really does exist.
The LHC will collide the beams at 3.5 TeV each for the next 18 months before shutting down for a year for repairs, after which it will begin colliding protons at twice that energy.
The Webcast – and celebration – is ongoing at the LHC. The beams have been steadily colliding for more than three hours now, sending back unprecedented reams of data that already number at more than a half million collision events. For online play-by-play, check in with CERN on Twitter.
Oh, and for the record, the world did not end.