The Large Hadron Collider is the world’s largest particle collider. At the bottom of a huge shaft dug into a mountain, two beams of subatomic particles, dubbed “hadrons”, shoot around an enclosed racetrack accelerating with every lap until they collide. The idea is to recreate on a small scale the conditions in the universe immediately after the Big Bang.
I actually saw the LHC under construction. I was visiting another accelerator used to generate antimatter, escorted by a physicist with spiky hair who looked like he played in a band. The question of why the universe is composed of matter versus antimatter could give humans a glimpse of “God’s big toe” according to this recent NYTimes interview http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/18/science/space/18cosmos.html , and points to a fundamental asymmetry in the universe. The accelerator was wrapped in tinfoil and duct tape as a sort of low-tech insulation.
It is not such a bad way to spend one’s career figuring out how the universe got started. Here at ESnet, we are helping. ESnet is part of the network that carries the data from the LHC in Switzerland to groups of physicists in the U.S.
The Large Hadron Collider is projected to generate 15 petabytes of data yearly from six different detector experiments. The data, too massive to handle internally, is sent to 12 tier 1 sites around the world. CERN data from the ATLAS and CMS detectors travels the Atlantic on USLHCNet http://lhcnet.caltech.edu/ ESnet then carries data to Brookhaven National Laboratory and Fermilab, US tier 1 sites, for processing and archiving. The data is then distributed to tier 2 facilities, mainly of universities and research institutions around the U.S., including the Berkeley Lab’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Division (NERSC).–Wendy Tsabba