Swiss Collider Puts Fermi Physicists to Work

March 30, 2010

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Fermi Lab. (Photo by Melody Kramer)
A massive proton collider in Europe successfully smashed its first protons early Tuesday morning. That means more work for some physicists in Chicago's western suburbs.

When it comes to proton colliders, bigger is better. And now that it's operational, the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland is the world's biggest - more than four times bigger than the collider at Fermi Lab in Batavia. And it'll be able to smash protons with seven times the energy.

Don Lincoln is a senior scientist at Fermi. He seems disappointed that Fermi no longer rules the sub-atomic roost, but he says he's excited by the Swiss collider's capabilities.

LINCOLN: In these beams, we are recreating the conditions of the universe a tenth of a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang.

They do that my examining the debris left over after those proton beams are smashed into each other.

Lincoln says about fifty Fermi scientists are helping monitor the Swiss collider, and they'll also be examining its data.