The Biggest Thing in Physics

Gabrielle Walker in Discover:

Collider3_smNear the west end of Lake Geneva in Switzerland, buried under the river plain of the Rhône, workers are fitting together the final pieces of the machine that hopes to unlock one of the biggest mysteries of the universe. It has taken over 20 years, $8 billion, and the combined efforts of more than 60 countries to create this extraordinary particle smasher, the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, built and operated by CERN, the European physics consortium.

The “large” in Large Hadron Collider is something of an understatement. “Enormous” is closer: The collider’s underground tunnel carves a circle 17 miles in circumference, traversing the border between Switzerland and France. At four locations it passes through caverns crammed with detectors the size of buildings. In a deliberately constructed rivalry, two of these detectors—along with their armies of scientists, engineers, and technicians—will vie with each other to discover the obscure but wildly important particle known as the Higgs boson.

More here.