Bending their paths to follow the tube requires thousands of the most powerful electromagnets which require enormous electric currents. Normally, the heat released would vapourise the whole lot so superconducting wires are used. Cooled to -271 ºC (colder than outer space) by liquid helium, these conduct without any resistance whatever.
When the particles collide, their (increased) mass is converted into energy, simulating the conditions of the “Big Bang”. The energy then condenses into new unstable particles. These decay into gamma rays, X-rays, and other particles, identified using six enormous detectors in huge caverns; one, ATLAS, weighs 7,000 tonnes. ATLAS, one of the largest physics collaborations ever, involves 1,800 physicists in 35 countries collecting and analysing data. Communication of the data would be virtually impossible without the internet. CERN is arguably the wonder of the modern world. What are accelerators? Accelerators apply electric fields to charged particles, electrons, protons or ions. These make the particles move faster and faster. For instance, one volt gives an electron one electron-volt (eV) of energy and accelerates it to about 2% of c. The LHC produces energies of 7 TeV (tera = million million). Old TV sets used 5,000V to accelerate electrons to about a quarter of c before smashing into the screen and causing a flash (Yes! We had particle accelerators in our living rooms. Who knew?). Developed for fundamental, curiosity-driven, research, there are now about 30,000 accelerators worldwide, mostly in industry and health (see spin-offs). Research accelerators operate at such high voltages that the particles are moving at a fraction below c. They can’t exceed this because as they get closer some of the extra energy is converted into mass and the particles become heavier, as Einstein predicted. At 99.9998% of the speed of light, a mouse would weigh as much as an elephant, and the LHC can accelerate particles more than this. Some spin-offs from particle acceleration research