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Atom-smasher test successful

Geneva, September 10
The world’s largest particle collider successfully completed its first test by firing a beam of protons all the way around a 17-mile tunnel on Wednesday in what scientists hope is the next great step to understanding the makeup of the universe.

After a series of trial runs, two white dots flashed on a computer screen at 10.36 a.m. (0836 GMT) indicating that the protons had travelled the full length of the $3.8 billion large Hadron Collider.

“There it is”, project leader Lyn Evans said when the beam completed its lap. Champagne corks popped in labs as far away as Chicago, where contributing scientists watched the proceedings by satellite. Physicists around the world now have much greater power than ever before to smash the components of atoms together in attempts to see how they are made.

Earlier, scientists at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) started up the huge particle-smashing machine in the Large Hadron Collider, a 10 billion Swiss franc (9 billion dollar) accelerator built underneath the Swiss-French border.

“There are two emotions, the pleasure of completing a great task and the hope of great discoveries ahead of us,’’ said CERN director-general Robert Aymar.

The giant accelerator’s first task was to send a particle beam in one direction around its 17-mile circumference, and then one in the other direction to test if the path is clear. In the coming weeks beams will be sent in both directions simultaneously to create high-speed collisions. Scientists around the world are eagerly anticipating data on those minuscule crashes. One possibility is that they will cause the creation of matter — proving correct the theory that there exists a “Higgs Boson’’ that gives matter its mass. — Agencies

It was no peril to the Earth

Skeptics theorized that a byproduct of the collisions could be micro-black holes, subatomic versions of collapsed stars whose gravity is so strong they can suck in planets and other stars. James Gillies, chief spokesman for CERN, said that the most dangerous thing that could happen would be if a beam at full power were to go out of control, and that would only damage the accelerator itself and burrow into the rock around the tunnel. Nothing of the sort occurred on Wednesday, though the accelerator is still probably a year away from full power. The collider is designed to push the proton beam close to the speed of light, whizzing 11,000 times a second around the tunnel. — Reuters

Scared, girl kills herself

Indore: A 16-year-old girl in Madhya Pradesh has allegedly committed suicide after watching TV programmes that made dooms-day predictions relating to the atom-smasher experiment. Chhaya, a resident of Sarangpur town in Rajgarh district, consumed sulphos tablets (an insecticide) on Tuesday, her parents said. The girl was rushed to Indore’s MY Hospital where she succumbed on Wednesday. — PTI



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