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The worlds greatest scientific experiment
It took 10,000 scientists and engineers from 85 countries across the world several decades to build the 27 kilometre- long tunnel underneath Switzerland and France. This tunnel houses the largest scientific experiment ever built the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC for short. You might justly wonder why did they do it? What is it that they are trying to learn through this experiment?
To find out visit the Collider exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum. The exhibition traveled to Sydney from London Science Museum to give us an opportunity to walk through the LHC tunnel and to follow the 27 kilometre journey of a particle beam. The simulation is complete with a CERN control room, parts of the collider, white boards with scribbles of mind-boggling facts about the experiment, virtual scientists and engineers and video presentations.
Prior to entering the LHC tunnel you are invited to watch a short video. Far from the excitement of a Hollywood production, the video does have a surprise appearance by Professor Brian Cox.
In a nutshell
In essence, what happens inside the collider is this: two beams of protons are accelerated to race in opposite directions at almost the speed of light around the 27 kilometre loop. Each beam carries as much energy as a passenger jet at full speed. The beams are then collided with surgical precision inside giant detectors to recreate the conditions of less than a billionth of a second after the universe began, in other words immediately after the Big Bang. LHC produces 600 million collisions per second and the power of the collisions is such that the protons explode into a cloud of exotic subatomic particles. It is in such conditions that the elusive particles like Higgs boson are created and detected.
LHC has captured the imagination of the general public and has appeared in Dan Brown's novel, on TED and in National Geographic, as well as in a number of TV shows from FlashForward to The Big Bang Theory, and even in South Park. Perhaps one day our hunger for knowledge will outweigh our hunger for war and conflict and we will see more epic scale scientific experiments being built.
Once you exit the exhibition, you don't have to leave the museum the general admission is included in the price of the exhibition ticket. While your mind is still operating on the Universal scale, check out the space corner of the museum. Apart from moon rovers, sputniks and space suits, there is a Zero Gravity Space Lab where an optical illusion is cleverly used to fool your senses into feeling that you are experiencing zero gravity.
On your way out don't miss the alien landscape of Mars lab - a space robotics, astrobiology and education research facility.
And make sure to check out the radioactive chandelier right next to the exit. It is part of an installation created in response to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.