2SCIEN0CE NEWS OF THE YEAR | Matter & Energy
On and off for the LHC
protons take trip around the accelerator
one short trip for a proton, one not-so-giant step for mankind. on september 10, scientists at cerN’s large hadron
collider, near geneva, successfully steered the first beam of
protons around the accelerator’s 27-kilometer track. but just
nine days after the initial success, a faulty electrical connection led to a helium leak (SN Online: 9/23/08). the setback,
combined with the lhc’s scheduled winter shutdown to
save fuel costs, means that scientists won’t attempt the
first proton collisions until summer 2009.
the accelerator’s early hibernation, however, hasn’t dampened expectations for how it could drastically alter physicists’ understanding of the universe. when the accelerator
runs at full capacity, its twin beams will each carry seven
Several LHC detectors (ATLAS shown left) will record pro-
ton collisions. The yellow spots at right show that a beam
of protons has indeed traveled all the way around the ring.
times more energy and have about 30 times the intensity of
the best beam at any other accelerator. moreover, the most
energetic collisions will generate the temperatures and densities that existed a trillionth of a second after the big bang.
physicists hope that the lhc will lead them beyond the
standard model of particle physics (SN: 7/19/08, p. 16) to
signs of extra dimensions, new types of elementary particles and, perhaps, rapidly evaporating microscopic black
holes that the accelerator may forge. Depending on what’s
detected, physicists may find out if they understand the
fundamental building blocks of nature, or if “everything that
physicists have been talking about for 45 years is wrong,”
says John ellis, a theoretical physicist at cerN.
Invisibility within sight
Researchers take steps
toward developing materials
that can bend light in a way
that renders objects invisible
(SN: 8/30/08, p. 15).
Researchers discover a new type of carbon filament, colossal carbon
tubes (shown below). The
tubes are tens of thousands of
times thicker than nanotubes
(SN: 8/30/08, p. 9).
Maxwell’s cool demon
An optical barrier that lets
atoms cross in only one
direction realizes a 19th century thought experiment that
pushes thermodynamics to
its limits (SN: 7/19/08, p. 7).
Proton’s cousin Physicists
discover omega-b-minus, a
particle made of two strange
quarks and a bottom quark
(SN: 9/27/08, p. 9).
Building ‘the Matrix’
mentary machine that simulates quantum phenomena
using quantum physics. The
vacuum chamber (shown)
traps ions for laser manipulation (SN: 8/30/08, p. 5).
Resistance with a twist
Researchers show that
twisting fluctuations among
electrons in a particular
material could explain the
(SN: 12/20/08, p. 13).
Time-lapse snapshots of certain molecules show that
they switch between different
shapes less often than theory
predicted (SN: 6/7/08, p. 7).
Einstein’s invisible hand
Controversial data suggest
that effects from Einstein’s
theory of relativity might
make element 114 behave
like a noble gas rather than a
metal (SN: 4/12/08, p. 230).