The Large Hadron Collider is the largest and most powerful particle accelerator in the world.
But why do we need to accelerate particles at all?
Well, we need to accelerate particles to incredibly high speeds to smash them together and see what's inside and what happens.
It lets us answer some of science's most fundamental questions about the origins and evolution of all the matter in the universe.
Let's imagine Lego Ironman and Batman collide at a catastrophically high speed (as seen above). BOOM! The pieces of Lego are blown apart by the impact. But, as detailed by the orange shards of Lego in picture three, you may also see some other particles that flicker into existence for a few moments, before disappearing again.
Those short-lived particles have never been observed before. Proving the existence of such particles (like the Higgs boson) helps physicists build theories to explain how our universe is put together.
In the real world, you can do this one of two ways: you could use a linear accelerator (which propels particles along a linear, or straight, beam line) or a circular accelerator (which propels particles around a circular track).
Where does the Large Hadron Collider fit in?
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a circular accelerator on the border between France and Switzerland. It accelerates two beams of particles in opposite directions around its 27-kilometre ring using powerful magnets to keep the particles on track.
The particles it accelerates are a class known as hadrons. These hadrons (usually protons or iron ions) travel very close to the speed of light as they travel around the LHC, before they collide.
Because the LHC is so very big, it means we can accelerate these particles to speeds never seen before on Earth creating incredibly high-energy collisions. The higher the energy the more chance we have of seeing some pretty amazing science.
For example, the LHC is also tasked with solving several other scientific mysteries, including the existence of dark matter and dark energy, the reason why the universe is made up of matter (and not antimatter) and string theory.
If you want to find out more about the LHC and particle accelerators - check out the CERN research centre's site here.
And here's a pretty cool video explained the science behind the LHC from DNews:
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