In Thrilling Smashup, LHC Breaks Beam Luminosity World Record

The Large Hadron Collider is now officially the world's most powerful particle accelerator

Particles Collide Like Fireworks
Lucas Taylor via Wikimedia

The LHC smashed a record-breaking number of particles at midnight Geneva time last night, setting a new standard for beam intensity. CERN replaced Fermilab's former record of 4.024 × 1032cm-2s-1 with a smug 4.67 × 1032cm-2s-1. That's a lot of zeros, ranging somewhere in the billions of billions. Of billions.

What do all those zeros really mean? Like in a game of molecular bowling, the LHC's hunt for the Higgs boson depends on a high number of collisions. But in this game, when the ball hits the pins, it creates bright lights--the brighter the lights, the more potential collisions. A strike would look like a blazing solar explosion, while a gutter ball would look depressingly dark.

This beam intensity record is a strike, but the game isn't over. CERN scientists is bowling for data, hoping to prove the existence of the Higgs boson, a theoretical molecule thought to give mass to all the other particles. Last night's smash means a lot more data, which brings the LHC a frame closer to their goal.

The collider will continue running until the end of this year, when it will take a well-deserved break.