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LHC smashes high-energy record: world's largest collider collects first data from 3.5 TeV beams.

By all accounts, the Large Hadron Collider's record-setting day of proton bashing was a smashing success. The powerful machine at CERN, Europe's high-energy physics lab near Geneva, got off to a rocky start on March 30. But by early afternoon (Geneva time), two 3.5-trillion-electronvolt beams were colliding head-on.

The collisions in the 27-kilometeraround accelerator set a new record for highest-energy particle crashing.

"Today, we opened the door and put our nose through it," says Jurgen Schukraff, a physicist with CERN's ALICE experiment, which will explore new types of matter produced in the collisions.

Researchers began circulating beams at 3.5 TeV on March 19, but had not yet collided them. Around 1 p.m. local time on March 30, CERN tweeted "Experiments have seen collisions!!!!!!!!!!!" followed quickly by "First time in the history!!!!!!!!!!!! World record!!!!!!!!" Experiments recorded data for more than three hours before ramping down for the day.

"Already it looks like we are entering new territory," Schukraft says. But it will take "years, not days or weeks," he adds, to answer physicists' questions about theoretical predictions like the elusive Higgs particle, dark matter and supersymmetry.

A morning collision attempt was aborted when a piece of overly sensitive equipment detected errant electromagnetic radiation. Scientists resolved the issue, and by early afternoon, "it was all OK," Schukraft says. "It works perfectly."

CERN plans to run the accelerator at 3.5 TeV per beam for the next 18 months to two years, with a brief maintenance break at the end of 2010. Then the LHC will be shut down and prepared to run at its maximum energy of 7 TeV per beam.

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Title Annotation:Atom & Cosmos; Large Hadron Collider
Author:Sanders, Laura
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:4EXSI
Date:Apr 24, 2010
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