March 1, 2010 in Nation/World

Scientists restart atom smasher

Alexander G. Higgins Associated Press

GENEVA – Operators of the world’s largest atom smasher restarted their massive machine Sunday in a run-up to experiments probing secrets of the universe, a spokeswoman said.

The European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, sent low energy beams of protons in both directions around the 27-kilometer tunnel housing the Large Hadron Collider under the Swiss-French border at Geneva, said Christine Sutton.

After a cautious trial period, CERN plans to ramp up the energy of the beams and start record-setting collisions of protons by late March, Sutton said.

The restart follows a 2 1/2-month shutdown during which scientists made improvements and checked out the smasher’s ability to collide protons at energies three times greater than has ever been achieved.

The new collisions are expected to shatter the subatomic particles and reveal still smaller fragments and forces.

The Large Hadron Collider was built to examine suspected phenomena such as dark matter, antimatter and ultimately the creation of the universe billions of years ago, which many theorize occurred as an explosion known as the Big Bang.

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