The origins of the LHC were unfortunate: first, the helium leak, and then, the overheat caused by the baguette crumbs in the installation, in a word – failure after failure. But then came the great expected success, that is, the discovery of the Higgs boson, the particle which physicists knew everything about, except whether it existed at all.
The LHC, that is, the Large Hadron Collider, is a particle accelerator, designed to work with protons and nuclei of lead and to give them incredible speed in order to collide them with the greatest impetus. It is not the only device of this kind in the world, but – as it is emphasized by the name – a very large one. Physicists are pinning their great hopes in it, because thanks to the huge dimensions the particles inside it can reach speeds close to the speed of light. Due to initial problems, so far, it has been working at half steam, but in these months it is being adapted to achieve the maximum potential and accelerate particles to the energy of 7 TeV.
The LHC is has a ring shape, with a circumference of nearly 27 km, and is located 100 meters underground. The protons, obtained from the hydrogen atoms (not much of it is needed, a gram of this element would be enough for a million years of work), are not put to it right away, but first, they are gradually accelerated in four smaller accelerators. In the tunnel of the LHC, the particle beams released in opposite directions are already rushing with the speed close to the speed of light in separate tubes with a diameter of a few centimetres and vacuum inside. Their movement in a circle is directed by powerful electromagnets (in total, almost 10 thousand of them), cooled with a liquid helium to a temperature only 1.9 degrees above the absolute zero. In certain places surrounded with detectors, the particles collide, which requires quite a precision, because it is like a clash of two needles flying towards each other from a distance of 10 km. During the collision, a thicket of other particles is created, among which the physicists are hoping to spot something interesting. In July 2012, they were able to hunt the Higgs boson this way. The heaviest particles disintegrate so quickly that it is impossible to observe them with detectors, but they leave traces enabling their identification.
The discovery of the Higgs boson (done!) is not the only task of the LHC. Physicists also count on observing other, previously unknown particles from outside the standard model. Its another goal is to explore the particles which the so-called dark matter is made of and discover why there is a huge disparity between matter and antimatter, while at the beginning of the Universe they were roughly in the same amount.