Measuring the God Particle

The electromagnetic and hadron calorimeters [left] 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.

If you somehow managed to avoid seeing the comic, listening to the rap or reading anything in the all out media blitz, then let me be the first to tell you that earlier today the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s most power particle accelerator, began operation. Scientists hope that the experiments conducted in the $9 billion dollar accelerator will help them discover the mysterious Higgs boson. The Higgs boson, colloquially referred to as the “God particle,” is the hypothetical particle that imbues matter with mass, and finding it (or not finding it) will have profound implications on the world of physics.

Luckily, for those just becoming aware of this momentous event and those wanting to brush up on their LHC knowledge before tackling a cocktail party tonight, Popular Science has you covered. First, start by taking a virtual tour of the accelerator, courtesy of Peter McCready.

Then let Paul Adams explain why despite the fears, the LHC will not destroy the world (as if your reading this doesn’t already confirm that. Afterwards, let Danny Freedman describe what might happen if you were inside the LHC, getting hit with 320 trillion photons moving at almost the speed of light. Get a sense of the energies involved with the collisions with yours truly. Track your investment in the discovery of the Higgs boson over at PPX. And finally, a Greg Mone classic gets the skinny on the International Linear Collider, the planned U.S. answer to the European LHC.

No doubt it will take physicists months if not years to analyze the data produced by the LHC. Regardless, continue to check back at for all breaking LHC news. Happy accelerator day!

See all of PopSci‘s coverage of the Large Hadron Collider at