LHC achieves record collisions, starts gathering data

The Large Hadron Collider is up and running, and has produced its first high-energy collisions.

As a first-of-its-kind device, the LHC has been plagued with hold-ups, and today was no exception. A problem was detected with one of its superconducting magnets because of a malfunctioning electrical system.

The system eventually achieved its first collisions at about 1pm local time.

“With these record-shattering collision energies, the LHC experiments are propelled into a vast region to explore, and the hunt begins for dark matter, new forces, new dimensions and the Higgs boson,” said ATLAS collaboration spokesperson, Fabiola Gianotti.

“The fact that the experiments have published papers already on the basis of last year’s data bodes very well for this first physics run.”

The two 3.5 TeV beams have been circulating in opposite directions since March 19. Once scientists were confident that the beams were stable, they were allowed to collide with a combined energy of 7 TeV.

It will take some time for any new discoveries to filter through, although data is already being analyzed, according to CERN spokesman Guido Tonelli.

“We’ll address soon some of the major puzzles of modern physics like the origin of mass, the grand unification of forces and the presence of abundant dark matter in the universe. I expect very exciting times in front of us,” he said.

The next stage will be to aim for collisions at 14 TeV – although that won’t happen until the end of a maintenance shutdown planned for the end of this year.