: Photo: BUL CollectionThe Large Hadron Collider, the world's most-powerful atom smasher, is an engineering marvel constructed hundreds of feet underground.
Composed of millions of individual pieces, the collider uses more than 9,000 magnets to accelerate two beams of protons to almost the speed of light. When the beams collide, they shatter into their constituent parts, allowing scientists to glimpse particles that don't exist in standard environments.
The hard part, actually, becomes finding the rare and important particles among all the normal ones created in smashing atoms. Toward that end, physicists designed cathedral-size experimental chambers that feature some of the most-precise measurement tools ever created by man. One scientist described them as 150-megapixel digital cameras taking snapshots 600 million times a second.
In this gallery, we take you on a quick tour of the world's most complex scientific machine.
The Globe of Science and Innovation marks the site of the 17-square-mile underground Large Hadron Collider, the biggest physics experiment in the world, which starts smashing atoms Sept. 10.
: Courtesy CERNThe European Organization for Nuclear Research, which goes by its French acronym, CERN, is home of the Large Hadron Collider, located on the border between Switzerland and France northwest of Geneva.
: Photo: Roy LangstaffHere, a technician works on one of the major experimental areas within the Large Hadron Collider: the ATLAS all-purpose particle detector. ATLAS will be used to search for the long-postulated Higgs boson as well as for clues about dark matter and the nature of the universe.
: Photo: Roy LangstaffTaken inside ATLAS, this image shows the Hadronic Endcap Liquid Argon Calorimeter. The calorimeter can measure the loss of energy from a collision, which could be caused by the creation of dark matter.
: Photo: Maximilien BriceThe ALICE detector, a piece of which is pictured here, will be used in experiments designed to mimic the moments just after the Big Bang. Cosmologists hope to see how the superheated plasma present at the beginning of creation cooled into the particles we see in the world today. More than 1,000 scientists have collaborated on the ALICE experiment.
: Photo: Maximilien BriceThe Silicon Pixel detector, pictured under construction, of the ALICE detector recorded the very first particle tracks produced by the LHC back on June 15 during a test run
of the machine.
: Photo: Maximilien BriceOne of the final pieces is inserted into the Compact Muon Solenoid, or CMS, one of the largest detectors at the Large Hadron Collider. Built around an enormous solenoid magnet that generates a magnetic field 100,000 times that of the Earth, the CMS will be in on the hunt for the Higgs boson, dark matter and extra dimensions. More than 2,000 scientists from 37 countries will work with the CMS.
: Photo: Claudia MarcelloniThe ATLAS experimental chamber, pictured here, is 150-feet long, 82-feet high and weighs more than 15,000 pounds. It's the largest detector at the LHC and the handiwork of more than 1,700 scientists.
: Photo: Claudia MarcelloniThe Guardian newspaper once wrote
, "Particle physics is the unbelievable in pursuit of the unimaginable." Here, we see the unbelievable ATLAS Magnet Toroid Endcap rolling through the streets of the LHC campus. The Endcap is one of three major magnets in the detector's system.
: Photo: Maximilien BriceUnlike most of the other experiments at the LHC, the Compact Muon Solenoid was built above ground and then lowered into place in 15 sections. Here, the last section is brought into place for reassembly underground.
: Photo: Maximilien BriceScientists watch the second and final test of the LHC's beam-synchronization systems on Aug. 22.
: Photo: CERNThe Globe of Innovation at CERN, the world's largest particle physics laboratory. CERN has 20 European members and 7,931 scientists and engineers.
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