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Smashing Particles at Near-Light Speed: A Visual Guide to the Large Hadron Collider

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A global effort to gain a more complete understanding of the universe’s fundamental building blocks resumed Tuesday near Geneva as the world’s largest particle collider resumed scientific works after about a three-year hiatus for maintenance and upgrades.

The Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, operated by the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, has a 17-mile circular tunnel in which particles such as protons are accelerated to nearly the speed of light and then smash into each other, creating showers of smaller particles . The fractures are analyzed using specialized detectors located around the ring in the hope that the data will reveal previously unknown subatomic particles. That’s what happened a decade ago when CERN scientists announced the discovery of the sensational Higgs boson, the particle that gives mass to all matter.

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