Today on the border between France and Switzerland, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) shot its first protons through its 17 mile long ring. Many feared that the world would be consumed by a black hole, but as phycisists know, this fear was based on science fiction.
By colliding particles at almost the speed of light, the phycisists are hoping to find the elusive Higgs boson, a particle that endows other particles with mass. According to the New York Times, “They also hope to identify the nature of the mysterious invisible dark matter that makes up 25 percent of the universe and provides the scaffolding for galaxies. Some dream of revealing new dimensions of space-time.” It will be some time before they have collisions that are meaningful, but their machines are working and the phycisists are celebrating.
This has to be one of the most exciting experiments in my lifetime – we could find out what the hell is really going on in outer space.
The New York Times also has a really great interactive graphic here.