Large Hadron Collider: What is it and why is it so important for our understanding of everything in the world?

Sarah Spickernell
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The collider was first put to use in 2008 (Source: Getty)

Keen particle physicists received the best Easter present possible over the weekend – after two years of being in hibernation, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland was rebooted once more.

The machine holds promises to advance understanding of the laws of physics at the most minuscule yet fundamental level. By recreating temperatures not experienced since moments after the Big Bang and smashing high-speed protons into each other, it can be used to answer such questions as what the universe is, what it is made of and how life began.

Seven things you should know about LHC

- It's the biggest machine in the world, with a circumference of 17 miles

- It weighs almost as much as the Eiffel Tower

- It took 10 years to build, from 1998 to 2008

- 10,000 scientists from 100 countries were involved in its creation

- It cost £2.6bn to build

- The temperatures generated are 100,000 times hotter than the heeart of the sun

- 600m collisions take place inside it every second

It has already made a discovery that sheds light on one of the most baffling scientific theories for decades – in 2013, four years after it was set up, it identified the elusive Higgs Boson particle, whose existence was predicted 50 years ago but was never actually found until that point. This is considered important evidence for the “standard particle model” - the current explanation for why everything is the way it is, based on subatomic particles and the forces holding them together.
And now the revolutionary machine is up and running again following a two year upgrade, scientists will take it a step further – they will continue to delve into the most basic make-up of atoms, while also investigating mysteries such as the presence of dark energy, which is supposedly the force causing the accelerating expansion of our universe.
It even has the potential to completely turn our understanding of the world upside down, if it generates findings that don't fit into our current models of how we came into existence. Below is a video depicting how the LHC uses high speeds to smash particles together.

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