Can we travel back in time, or predict the future? These are among the eternal questions about to be probed by an international team of researchers at CERN (the European Laboratory for Particle Physics) in Geneva is putting the finishing touches on the Large Hadron Collider, a new particle accelerator and one of the largest scientific machines ever built to re-create the conditions of an infant universe and offer clues about the fundamental stuff from which all matter derived. The key to making it work is a giant magnet - 75 feet tall and 130 feet long - that recently was powered up in a successful test of its magnetic field. The magnet is made of eight superconducting coils that together weigh more than 100 tons.
By using magnets to propel particles through the racetrack, the CERN team creates enormous concentrations of energy that strips atomic particles into a "primitive state." In essence, the accelerator is a time machine, looking at the most virgin matter as it was before elements and compounds evolved into complex forms of matter. What makes the LHC so extraordinary is that it squeezes energy into a space about a million million times smaller than a mosquito.
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