Let the atom-smashing begin! Image: CERN.
Donít look now, but preparations ahead of potentially groundbreaking atom-smashing experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) are increasing in intensity Ė and the world has not yet come to an end.
More pointedly, the gigantic subterranean particle accelerator, which is operated by CERN and buried deep underground just outside of Geneva, has this week had its operating energy levels pushed to three times more than it has achieved since being fired up.
According to CERN representatives, the massive 17-mile ringed accelerator has now circulated protons in both directions at a whopping 3.5 trillion electron volts (TeV). In doing so, the collider surpassed its own speed record, which was set back in December when it pushed past the one trillion TeV barrier.
With such huge speeds successfully achieved, CERN scientists are expected to begin smashing proton streams together in the next few days in order to re-create and study conditions immediately following the Big Bang and learn more about the origins of our universe.
Finally up and running and ready to search out information regarding the likes of dark energy and the elusive Higgs Boson (a.k.a. the God Particle), itís hasnít been an easy path of discovery for CERN.
Specifically, progress has been beset by a number of failures and mishaps, the most serious of which reared its head in September of 2008 when overheating super-conducting magnets caused more than year of major repairs a mere nine days after the machine had been turned on for the first time.
Critics of the Large Hadron Collider and its particle experiments believe the possible creation of micro black holes could spiral out of control and devour the planet (cough). Some also believe that mysterious failures associated with the accelerator are the result of future particles moving back through time to prevent the experiments from ever taking place.