back to article Hadron Collider switches to heavy ions, tinfoilers wet pants again

Particle-punishing boffins at the Large Hadron Collider - the most outrageously powerful matter-rending apparatus and largest machine of any kind assembled by the human race - have switched ammunition. The colossal superconductor massdriver cannons of the LHC are now firing "fully stripped" ultrahypervelocity lead projectiles …


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  1. Trygve
    Thumb Up

    "boffinry desk, particle-molestation subdivision"

    Dammit, I want a job title like that...

    1. wayne 8

      Will anyone think of the particles?

      save them from the particlephiliacs

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Attention to detail...

    Let's hope it's a bit better when it comes to the aftermath of pressing a _real_ big red emergency button...

    "...are you ready to _tke_ a trip..."


  3. Scott Broukell


    "In any event, the transition to shooting lead rather than protons at the LHC ...."

    The ammunition is now lead-ions, not solid lumps of lead, just wanted to make that clear.

    Collisions of such particles may yield a quark-gloun plasma, not too dissimilar to the material in the Grand Unification phase of the universe, at approx. 10 −37 seconds after the arrival of a bemused blue whale and a bowl of petunias.

    1. Uk_Gadget


      ...Oh no, not again!

    2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      A fully stripped lead ion

      Is actually more solid (and denser) than a solid lead bullet (which is mostly vacuum, as discovered by Rutherford)

  4. Liam Johnson

    coffee machine

    More important is the coffee in the machine. We don't want anyone falling asleep at their desk while the real red lamp is flashing away in the background.

    1. Stumpy

      But even more importantly...

      Is the machine capable of brewing a really hot cup of tea...

      ... for the improbability experiments .. natch.

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

        You will probably get

        A cup filled with a liquid which is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

    2. David Shaw


      We got our coffee in the form of "Double Ristrette" when I slaved away at antimatter in the 80's.

      No matter what late nite experiments, a couple of swiss ristrettes - similar to an italian expresso but with less liquid and higher density ions - would allow the cern brains to wake up and do fizziks. I never saw the synchrotrons actually make the stuff, but I admit they could have piped it in from the Prévessin site. probably

  5. Ben Bawden

    Not at the speed of light

    Only massless particles (i.e. light photons) can travel, indeed are compelled to travel, at the speed of light.

    The lead ions will be travelling at 99.99% the speed of light.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not to be a pedant

      but 99.999% = 100%

      1. Chris 2
        Big Brother

        not to be another pedant.

        Bollocks, who am I kidding. Pedantry ahoy.

        99.99% is not the same as 0.9999...

        99.99% of 10,000 is 9999

        0.9999... * 10,000 is 10,000


        (picture because, um, I like the moustache?)

      2. Ben Bawden

        Untrue, I'm afraid, in this context

        Pure Maths proof doesn't really translate to subatomic particle collisions.

        Besides, you were talking about 99.99... (an infinite number of 9s after the decimal), where I was talking about 99.99 (only 2 9s)

      3. HaydnH

        Err no...

        99.999...% would = 100%, the "..." is important in that statement! Perhaps you should re-read your links?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not at the speed of light ?????

      If the Lead Ions are traveling at 99.99% of the Speed of Light and they are crashing into each other...

      Does that not make the Approtch to the impact at x1,99.98% the speed of light?

      1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Velocities do not add

        If particles U and V are moving at velocities u and v relative to the detector, then the velocity (w) of U relative to V is not u-v (the particles are going in opposite directions, so one out of u and v is negative). The correct formula is:

        w = u - v / (1 - uv / c^2) where c = 299792458m/s

      2. Chris Pearson

        science says:

        I posed this question to a PHD Physics student (my sister) and got:

        "The beams are going in opposite directions so one will have negative velocity. The 'closing speed' your talking about I think would be in terms of the energy of the final interaction but it's relativistic so it's all gets a bit complicated from there on."

        So I take that as a maybe.

        1. Harvey Trowell

          Far be it from me to diss anyone's sister, but...

          Physics whizz though she may be, she gets 1 out of 3 for apostrophe usage. Anyway, nuff pedantry, let's get down to more important matters. This sister of yours, is she hot? Look good in a lab coat? How would you describe her morals? Loose? Variable? Negotiable maybe? Enquiring minds need to know.

          1. Stoneshop

            @Harvey Trowell

            You forgot the most important bit: does she wear glasses?

      3. Albert Gonzalez

        Relativity ....

        I'm sorry to dissapoint you, but at those speeds velocities, don't add.

        Energies do.

        From the PoV fo one of the ions, the one in collision course never is faster than c, mainly because it's time is slower than for the inertial observer.

        Mine is the one with the Relativity for Dummies in the pocket.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    ... our teleporting, rubmling juggernaut-spheroid overlords...

    "...sadly from a news viewpoint it appears that the juggernaut-men would be so minuscule and exist so briefly as only to be apparent to mighty detector instruments."

    So, due to a tragic miscalculation of scale, the entire invasion fleet was eaten by a small dog?

    (Need a 2nd icon for a coat, mine's the one with the towel).

  7. Graeme Coates

    "At speed of light"

    No, not quite. "Close to the speed of light" maybe - but the two aren't the same (and differ in energy by a factor of infinity...)

    1. Guido Esperanto

      can we have a new measure of speed please

      speed of light, appears to be overcooked, with granular variations leading to e-peen contests between the eggheads.

      May I offer a more general measure of speed.

      How about a Politician Backpedal, I mean in nature, nothing is faster.

      So speed of light, is around 30% of a political backpedal.

      1. Roger Varley

        new measure of speed

        >How about a Politician Backpedal, I mean in nature, nothing is faster.

        Nope, I would have to disagree here. I propose that we should use the Cypriot nano-second, which is that infinitesimal period between when the traffic lights turn green and the guy behind bips his horn. Fractionally slower than the speed of light (after all the guy behind has to have seen the light change) but not by much.

        1. Pirate Dave Silver badge

          no, no

          the REAL measure of absolute speed is the less than infintesimal amount of time that passes between our BES going down and the CEO appearing at my door, Blackberry in hand.

        2. OneWhoKnows

          Already named - a New York minute

          That smallest measurable unit of time, where the guy behind you blows his auto horn after the light turns green, is known as a "New York minute".

      2. Chemist

        "I mean in nature, nothing is faster."

        According to "The Hitchhiker's Guide..." nothing travels faster than light EXCEPT bad news.

        1. Captain DaFt

          @ Chemist

          My observations are that the fastest thing in existence is stupidity.

          It takes practice and discipline to at least appear smart, but even the brightest mind can be abysmally stupid in an instant!

          1. Chemist

            Ah but ..

            The follow-on to nothing traveling faster than bad news was that a certain race developed faster-than-light travel in ships powered by bad news but eventually gave up visiting other star systems because they were always unpopular when they arrived.

        2. BenR

          To continue the HItchhikers theme...

          ... how about the time between one monarch dying, and the next one becoming king/queen?

          It was in fact posited that 'royal-ness' was transmitted by massless particles called 'Kingons', and that faster than light communication could, in fact, be achieved by the carefully modulated torture of a small king.

      3. Autonomous Cowherd

        New measure of speed...

        How about the Backward Leap/Ohno-Second? (BL/OnS)

        Backward leap: The distance a suddenly very focussed person can jump given an unexpected, negative stimulus.

        Ohno-second: The time between the realisation that something has gone wrong, and the imminent, inevitable consequence.

  8. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge

    Don't press the red button!

    rumbling juggernaut-spheroid creatures from the fourth estate, more like.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Man Up

    looks like you are a bit tintin-foiled too-today lewis, man up kid and don't worry 'the unexamined life is not worth living'

    Or enjoy this other sage to calm down yourself:

    ‘Yesterday is Gone, Tomorrow is not, there is only today’ Book of Dead, Egypt, beginning of the Bronze Age.

    24 hours to collisions in this 'god-like production':

    regarding your comment about my farewell article, as usual you misrepresent it. This resumes it all:

    Even if we survive 11/9, the fact that the experiment is carried on without the slightest control and opposition, only means we humans will keep searching for higher forms of mass and energy, till definitely we cross the barrier of stability of strangelets, black holes and other forms of dark matter that will devour us. Make no mistake, the end of the race for higher energy in accelerators should be an event, which creates a stable black hole or strangelet that devour us - NOT an intelligent commission of politicians and citizens, who decides to stop this disguised arm race. And since the industry will keep pushing further upgrades and plans to reach always new energies, sooner than latter the planet will blow up, with the indifference and acquiescence of our political and judiciary institutions.

    Hence your quote, 'days (if the ions do us all) or decades (if we need further upgrades to 'reach the goal', our encounter with Kali )

    1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Man Up

      Hello AC. Why would you anonymise yourself and then refer to 'my farewell article'? Just wondering.

      1. Gianni Straniero

        I, for one,

        look forward to the forthcoming series "when Lewis met Louis".

      2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        my farewell article

        I think that is a brilliant demonstration of the man's attention span.

        With such a mind, it is not wonder that True Science inspires irrational fear in him.

        He must be the reincarnation of a Spanish Inquisitor - minus the power.

    2. Schick

      Re AC ... Man Up

      This is worrying. Why has manfrommars gone AC? What does he know that I don't? And why hasn't Lewis Page won a Pulitzer yet? Is Sarah Bee real? I don't have any Tin Foil - the stuff I got is made from aluminum - I mean aluminium. It started snowing here around the time the LHC switched to plumbum. Will my post be upvoted? This isn't SlashDot?

    3. Anonymous Coward

      @Man Up

      What a revelation! The LHC has only just started doing some REAL stuff, and it already revealed that aManFromMars is Luis Sancho!

      Revelations! Revelations! Revelations!

      What next? Andrew Orlowski's real identity revealed?

  10. Keris

    I for one...

    ... welcome our new juggernaught overlords from the Fifth Dimension!

    (They can't be any worse than the current lot!)

    I also want to see NSFW pictures of these "fully stripped" ions.

  11. WonkoTheSane

    Title goes where?

    There is a theory which states that if ever the true purpose of the universe is discovered, it will instantly vanish and be replaced by one even more bizarre and inexplicable.

    There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

    (Mine's the one with the towel in the pocket)

  12. John Sanders


    Have they found anything of interest yet?

    1. Uk_Gadget

      Re So.....


    2. adrianww


      ...that El Reg boffinry desk (particle molestation sub-division) journalists just can't resist pushing tempting red buttons.

    3. Stoneshop

      Re: So...

      Among other things, they've found it's a rather involved way to make piping hot custard with rhubarb crumble, and then only teeny tiny quantities thereof.

  13. MarkP

    That big red button...

    I pressed it too :D

  14. phuzz Silver badge

    Follow ups

    It would be interesting to see some interviews with some of those who have been shrillest in pointing out the planet destroying potential in CERN, such as Walter Wagner.

    I don't think they'll be likely to talk to you though ;)

  15. J 3
    Black Helicopters

    now, now...

    "the LHC does not and never will present any type of planet- or universe-destroying mishap risk"

    They would say that, wouldn't they?

    Damn, can't use the Black Chopper and the Joke icon at the same time...

  16. Andy Enderby 1

    with apologies to Greg Bear

    It's not the "invasion of planet Earth by teleporting, rumbling juggernaut-spheroid creatures from the Fifth Dimension", you want to worry about, it's the Jarts and Descendant Command..... </eon mode>

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Hell, I have big emergency buttons all over the house

    ideal for stress relief at any time of day.

    Paris, as she's frequently both used for stress relief and fully-stripped

  18. Black Betty

    Um that would be 15 MILImetres. Not KM.

    Neutron stars are considerably less dense that the hypothesised strange matter and they come in at only 10-12 km across.

  19. Petrea Mitchell
    Thumb Down

    No interdimensional invasion yet?

    Part of me is disappointed they haven't managed to put a hole in the fabric of space-time yet.

    1. John Murgatroyd

      They have.

      It occurred some time ago.

      The hole in the fabric of space time did not occur at CERN, it occurred in London. To be precise, it is located near the Speakers chair in the house of commons.

      All the interdimensional monsters invaded, time was slowed and strange particles pervaded the air.

      Unfortunately it was not noticed since the occupants of said house do not live in this world anyway. The press people present were still discussing global warming.

      1. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: They have.


    2. Stoneshop

      No holes in space-time fabric yet?

      They don't have any cats at CERN?

  20. Adrian Esdaile

    Best. First. Sentence. EVER.

    Now I'm just waiting for the black-hole implosion apocalypse, as nothing can beat that sentence!

  21. ShaggyDoggy

    Where's the huh ...

    ... Gold

    I mean, sticking lead in there and whizzing it around at the speed of light* then crashing it into soup, there's surely got to be gold coming out of the other end, right ?

    * almost

  22. Britt Johnston

    Journalist remembered his press card

    The coat with the red buttons, please.

  23. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Lambda Complex

    Wot, no jokes about Gordon Freeman yet?

    For added authenticity, CERN should put something like the following through their PA if the red button is pressed:

    "Attention administration personnel, evacuate Sector D immediately.

    Attention. All science personnel report topside for immediate questioning.

    Warning, cross-dimensional power field activity detected

    Warning, unauthorized biological force detected in cross-dimensional power field.

    All personnel evacuate Lambda Complex, extreme dimensional malfunction detected.

    Message for Gordon Freeman, you will not escape this time. "

  24. Mips
    Jobs Horns

    Compressed to the size of a marble..

    ..I mean, do I care? Does anyone care? Who would there be left to care? In fact think it is exactly what we need.

  25. Mips
    Jobs Horns

    Do not push this button..

    .. Of course you did. Your name must be Davros.

  26. Ian Ferguson
    Thumb Up

    Button, buttony buuutttoooooon

    It's a damn good idea having a harmless button for pokey pokey POKEY BUTTON people like me to push and get the pokeyness out of our systems before being allowed into the control rooms.

  27. ShaggyDoggy

    Compressed to the size of a marble

    It would actually be the same size it always was, it is space itself that gets 'compressed'

  28. Bleepme
    Paris Hilton

    I don't understand...

    If ever a story needed a touch of Playmobil, surely it's this one... Make it clear to us, el reg, make it clear.

    --Paris, cos I work there.

  29. Yag


    This big-red-button trap in an underground complex housing a potentially-world-destroying device makes me think back to my (not so) younger years playing "Evil Genius"...

    Mine is the one with the 1M$ note in the pocket

  30. The Mighty Duck
    Thumb Up


    The collider coverage is often times better than my daily webcomics for making me smile.

  31. Stoneshop
    Paris Hilton

    So, they're pretty close to the Big Bang

    After that, they can start looking for the Best one.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Please feel free to contradict me if you think I'm mistaken

    My understanding is that the speed of light is a constant, and the only absolute constant in the universe (because we defined it that way). So, two things approaching each other, each travelling at the speed of light, can meet each other at no more than the speed of light. What happens between them, so as to avoid their having any illusion as to their meeting each other at anything in excess of the speed of light, is that time slows down. Therefore, from the point of view of a particle travelling at something approaching the speed of light towards another particle travelling at the same speed in the opposite direction, the two particles meet each other very, very, very slowly -- as if the LHC were a tremendously cumbersome sort of social networking website server driving a 512 Kbyte eight-inch floppy diskette with a 400-baud modem. And like Facebook, despite people seeing it as producing spectacularly orgasmic results, it does nothing.

    I say this with some academic authority, having been certified as competent to an advanced level in the study of physics by the Oxford and Cambridge Joint Matriculation Board.

  33. Lukin Brewer

    Ah, yes. The big red button.

    The best way to safeguard your lab.

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