The largest project of human mankind

bild der wissenschaft” 9/2007 calls it the largest project of human mankind: the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Geneva. 9200 engineers and scientists from 500 institutes in 80 countries are working on this 4 billion Euro expensive knowledge machine to become operational in May 2008 ( 5 month behind schedule )

Purpose of this machine is to find evidence of the existence of the Higgs boson, a hypothetical massive scalar elementary particle, the missing piece in todays world model of physics to explain how elementary particles get their mass. It was discovered in theory by Peter Ward Higgs from the university of Edindurgh in 1964.

The LHC will be able to generate an environment as it existed 10-9 seconds after the big bang. Protons or plumb atoms will collide with 99,9 % light speed. ATLAS, one of the detectors to deliver evidence of Higgs bosoms and other particles, has the size of Notre Dame in Paris: 46 meters long and 25 meters in diameter with a weigh of about 7,000 tonnes. 9300 magnets are used to accelerate particles, 6208 additional magnets are needed to control the particle beam. All supra conductive cables together have a length of 6,5 times the length of our equator. The energy consumption of this monster machine is 120 mega watt, as much as a city like Geneva needs. The main part of the LHC is a ring 50 – 175 meters under ground with a diameter of 26.66 kilometer.

In contradiction to other projects of such a size there is no strict hierarchy implemented in the organization for this project. Institute work on their own responsibility and progress is mostly based on the motivation of all participating teams to answer the next hot questions of particle physics. Discovering ( or not discovering ) an evidence of the existence of the Higgs bosom would yield a significant impact on the particle physics world model.

Interesting also this chart showing how more and more scientist have to collaborate in physics ( as in many other science disciplines like for instance genetic research ) to discover new particles: the y-axis shows how many discoverer were needed to find that particle. While only one man was needed to discover the electron and may be two to discover the neutron it will take thousands of people to finally discover the Higgs bosom. Internet and Web 2.0 technology now will be the means by which these huge accomplishments can be achieved through a seamless exchange of knowledge in big communities.


One Response to “The largest project of human mankind”

  1. cormac Says:

    Interesting chart – though I would say it really took 4 people and 4 experiments to pin down the electron.
    P.S. I think LHC energy corresponds to about t = 1 billionth of a second, not 1 nano-second

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