Photograph by Maximilien Brice/CERN

Searching for the Higgs Boson

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    Few will enter the walled dome that houses the ATLAS and CMS (seen here) experiment collaborations at CERN, the European organization for nuclear research, near Geneva on the French-Swiss border. Inside CERN's coveted Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator, scientists believed to have discovered a Higgs boson last year—the long sought-after subatomic particle that explains why all matter in the universe has mass and can experience forces. Often misleadingly referred to as “the God particle” because of its importance in understanding the structure of matter, the Higgs boson does not have any relationship to religion. The LHC was built largely to prove or disprove the existence of the Higgs boson. Photographs taken this year, supplied by CERN, provide a rare view inside the actual Hadron particle collider as well as a look at the spaces in CERN where other cutting-edge particle physics experiments are happening.

    Photograph by Maximilien Brice/CERN
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    The Large Hadron Collider sits in a 17-mile-long, circular tunnel (illustrated here in yellow), more than 500 feet below ground at CERN, where protons are smashed into each other at nearly the speed of light. Its primary purpose is to study the basic components of matter: the fundamental particles. When the lab was founded in 1954, pure physics research at the time focused on the inside of the atom (hence “nuclear” in its name), but since then, pure physics research has evolved and now concentrates on particle physics, which studies both the constituents of matter and the forces acting on them.

    Courtesy CERN
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    Measuring 82 feet long and 49 feet in diameter, and weighing about 12,500 tons, the Compact Muon Solenoid detector, or CMS, has been running constantly for three years.

    Photograph by Maximilien Brice/CERN
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    This is the first half of the CMS inner tracking barrel. Three layers of silicon modules, which must be able to survive high doses of radiation, are at the center of the CMS experiment.

    Photograph by Maximilien Brice/CERN
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    The CERN control center provides a central command unit for the particle accelerators, the cryogenic distribution line, and the technical infrastructure on the CERN site. The center can accommodate up to 13 operators, each with its own team of experts, at any one time.

    Photograph by Maximilien Brice, Courtesy CERN
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    This is the first opening of the interconnection in the tunnel of the Hadron collider during Long Shutdown 1, in the presence of of CERN Director General Professor Rolf Heuer.
    Photograph by Maximilien Brice/CERN
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    The Large Hadron Collider beauty experiment (LHCb) investigates the slight differences between matter and antimatter by studying the decay of the so-called beauty particles, anti-quark b and a quark d. This is point 8 of the LHCb underground area.

    Photograph by Anna Pantelia, Courtesy CERN
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    The collaring press at Building 180 produces large magnets for the supercollider.

    Photograph by Anna Pantelia/CERN
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    In February the collider closed for the Long Shutdown 1, which will last approximately two years, allowing for maintenance and upgrade.

    Photograph by Maximilien Brice/CERN
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    Because of the long distance between stations along the 17-mile circular tunnel housing the collider, workers ride bicycles to their sites.

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    After Long Shutdown 1 is complete, CERN is proposing a new underground accelerator with a circumference of 50 miles, three times the length of the current one. The new collider may explore other aspects of particle behavior, including gravity at a molecular level.

    Photograph by Michael Hoch/CERN, for the benefit of the CMS Collaboration