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Collider smashes protons at record pace

The world's largest atom smasher performed the first experiments at conditions nearing those after the Big Bang, breaking its own record for high-energy collisions with proton beams crashing into each other Tuesday at three times more force than ever before.

In a milestone for the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider's bid to reveal details about theoretical particles and microforces, scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research took photos so they could study the disintegrating protons after they collided at a combined energy level of 7 trillion electron volts.

"This is a huge step toward unraveling Genesis Chapter 1, Verse 1 — what happened in the beginning," physicist Michio Kaku said.

The collisions herald a new era for researchers working on the machine in a 17-mile tunnel below the Swiss-French border.

Scientists erupted with applause when the first successful collisions were confirmed. Colleagues around the world tuned in by remote links to witness the record, which surpasses the 2.36 trillion electron volts recorded last year.

Researchers hope the machine can approach on a tiny scale what happened split-seconds after the Big Bang, which they theorize was the creation of the universe some 14 billion years ago.

The extra energy is expected to reveal more about unanswered particle physics questions, such as the existence of antimatter and the search for the Higgs boson, a hypothetical particle that scientists theorize gives mass to other particles and thus to other objects and creatures in the universe.

Collider smashes protons at record pace 03/30/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 30, 2010 10:18pm]
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