What is the Large Hadron Collider?
A hadron is
My name is James Lincoln. I'm a physics teacher here for About.com.The large hadron collider is exactly what it sounds like: it's a large hadron collider. It's large, in that it's several miles in radius. It's a large building in Europe and it's at a location call CERN, the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire, or the Council of European Nuclear Research. Now the large building is in a large circle of about 2.5 miles in radius. And there, they collide hadrons. A hadron is a heavy particle such as a proton. Now you might not think of a proton being a heavy particle but compared to an electron or a lepton, as they're known, it is a heavy particle. The Stanford Linear Accelerator is an example of a lepton collider; they were colliding electrons and positrons (a positive electron). So at the large hadron collider, they collide hadrons at enormous speeds. The building has to be in the shape of a circle because you are steering the hadrons which are positively charged into each other. And the only way you can do that is with magnets. Charged particles can be steered with magnets. So inside of the giant circle, which is deep underground, are a whole bunch of superconducting supermagnets, very strong magnets which are used to accelerate these particles into a circle at almost the speed of light.So why would we want to accelerate these particles so quickly? When they collide into each other, the explosion releases a lot of energy. And from that energy, you get new particles. It helps you figure out what are the basic constituents of matter. Sometimes it's compared to smashing a pocket watch against the wall to see how pocket watches work. That's how we're doing it at the large hadron collider, we are smashing particles into each other to see how matter actually works. I'm James Lincoln for About.com. Thanks for watching.