2 of 5Image
On the morning of Wednesday, 10 September, 2008, the first particle beam was successfully sent around the full circuit of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern).
The new science resulting from this grand experiment will turn up in the coming weeks and months, but what Wednesday's event did prove was that the world's largest machine works. Part of that machine is the cathedral-sized Atlas detector, one of two general-purpose detectors (the other is the Compact Muon Solenoid, or CMS) in the LHC.
Atlas's development and construction benefited from a great amount of UK involvement, particularly that of the Science & Technology Facilities Council. Pictured above is the very first image from Atlas showing the particle beam passing through.
ZDNet.co.uk was at a Science & Technology Facilities Council event in Westminster to see, via video-link, the LHC being initiated. On the following pages are some initial reactions from those involved in Atlas and the wider LHC project.
Professor Jon Butterworth of University College London heads up the UK's involvement in the Atlas detector. "This is the biggest high of my career so far," he told ZDNet.co.uk after the first successful beam circulation in the LHC, which took just under an hour to complete. "I didn't think they'd do it so quickly and smoothly."
"This is the first time [the LHC] has functioned as a single machine," Butterworth noted. He added that, although no new science as such came from Wednesday's events, the machine "shows a lot of cutting-edge technology, so in that sense it is a breakthrough".
"We'll probably be getting science out of this thing for 20 years," Butterworth said.
Peter Barratt is the communications chief for the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC), which distributes UK government funding for scientific research. He described the first beam's circulation as "fantastic".
"We were all a bit apprehensive, but they got the first beam round in just under an hour," Barratt said. "We're now looking forward to the energy ramping up." He also added that it was "mindblowing" for particle physics to be getting the international exposure granted by coverage of the LHC.
The STFC will continue to fund the LHC through the UK's subscription to Cern and the funding of research scientists, Barratt said. "Once we start receiving the data [from the LHC], those guys need to sit down and start analysing it," he said. "Maybe they will overturn the physics textbooks as they are at the moment — who knows?"