If all goes according to plan this week, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva will circulate its first beam on Sept. 10 — a step that’s been compared to “switching on” the machine, but that is, as you’d expect, much more complicated than that. Once the first beam is established, the next steps, taking place later in 2008, will be to accelerate and then collide two beams, producing for an eager physics community whatever new particles they can find.
You can watch the first attempt to circulate a beam in the LHC via CERN’s live webcast on the day. Many universities around the world will be hosting “first beam” lectures, watch parties and even a couple of pajama parties; here’s a list of first beam events in the United States, and if you know of more, drop a comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To get even more psyched up for the fire-up, check out the site for the recent BBC Radio 4 program Big Bang Day, with short (funny!) videos, including a great one from TEDTalks star Brian Cox, and a look at the LHC in science fiction, from Dr. Who to Dan Brown. CERN’s LHC First Beam site has even more background video and articles.
And our own Bruno Giussani, TED’s European Director, who lives near Geneva, has visited the LHC’s tunnel during the construction and wrote a field trip report complete with pictures.
Illustration of physicist Brian Cox at CERN, courtesy of Kate St. Claire, via her Flickr set