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The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator designed and built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) from 1998 to 2008. The accelerator is used to test the predictions of different theories in particle physics and high-energy physics, most importantly that of the existence of the Higgs boson, an elementary particle that is thought to be the most basic building block of the universe. Since the official launch of the project in September 2008, the LHC has been a recurring topic on discussion forums, blogs and tech news sites.
Located in a circular tunnel stretching over 27 kilometers in circumference beneath the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva, Switzerland, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is designed to collide opposing particle beams of protons at an ultra-high velocity. The accelerator is used to test the predictions of different theories in particle physics and high-energy physics, most importantly that of the existence of the Higgs boson, the hypothesized elementary particle that gives matter mass and holds the fabric of the universe together. It has been aptly dubbed the “God Particle” for its potential to address some of the most fundamental questions of physics and laws of nature.
In the months leading up to the public unveiling of the LHC, the project gained significant attention from the news media for the very costly budget despite its obscure nature. Outside of the scientific community, the news of LHC project also posed a great deal of anxiety, as some particle physicists have stated that a particle collision event could theoretically create tiny blackholes that could destroy the Earth. In February 2008, Misunderstood Universe released a CGI simulation footage of the Earth imploding as a result of a suddenly created black hole.
After more than a decade of construction efforts, the LHC completed the first circumnavigation of its main ring on September 10th, 2008. However, the operations came to a halt only a few days later after a Helium gas explosion damaged the equipments. The first collision eventually took place between two 3.5 TeV beams on March 30th, 2010, setting the world record for the highest energy man-made particle collisions to date.
Even prior to the launch of official tests in September 2008, the LHC had been a recurring discussion topic on 4chan’s /b/ (random) board, with the earliest archived instance dating to a thread posted via /v/ (videogames) board on December 6th, 2007. The LHC has been often compared to the plot line of the first-person shooter game Half-Life. Similar LHC-related discussions have been also archived from /a/ (anime), /sci/ (science) and /b/ (random) boards.
Large Hadron Rap
On July 28th, 2008, science writer Katie McAlpine uploaded an educational rap song titled “Large Hadron Rap” featuring McAlpine and a group of her friends’ rap song in the underground tunnels of CERN. The song went viral on YouTube and received blog coverage; Science magazine New Scientist praised the video as “the most entertaining explanation of physics” and “a completely respectable description of what scientists hope to learn” from the tests.
On September 8th, a “status-indicator” single serving site titled “Has The Large Hadron Collider Destroyed The World Yet?” was launched. A few days later on September 12th, a single serving site parody of a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference was launched, featuring the caption “It will take 42 days for the Large Hadron Collider to provide us with the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything.”
That same month, British animator Cyriak uploaded a CGI-animation video of a wormhole implosion purported as the real-time webcast of the CERN laboratory onto his website, which became frequently linked by trolls on 4chan and other forums.
In Popular Culture
In popular culture, the LHC has been alluded to or featured in fictions, TV series and video games, including the novel and film adaptation of Angels & Demon and the novel FlashForward and its TV adaptation. In response to the portrayal of LHC in Angels & Demons, CERN launched a “Fact or Fiction?” page on Facebook to debunk the popular myths surrounding the project and particle physics.
LHC Discovery of Higgs Boson Particle
On July 4th, 2012, a group of physicists at CERN announced that they had spotted a new particle that is consistent with the Higgs Boson after a successful collision. The announcement (shown below) was made in a packed auditorium at the laboratory and streamed in real-time around the world. The video came less than 12 hours after a video of an insider scientist confirming the discovery was accidentally published a day earlier on July 3rd via CERN’s official website, which made the rounds in the tech news blogosphere.
The news of Higgs Boson discovery was met by varying reactions on the web, with many coping with their inability to understand its actual significance, followed by a slew of YouTube videos trying to explain the theoretical concept in as plain-spoken English as possible. Meanwhile, Redditors criticized the rampant use of the buzzword “God Particle” in the news headlines, while Twitter users zeroed in at the CERN physicists’ ill-advised choice of MS Comic Sans as the typeface for their historically monumental presentation.
On July 4th, BBC interviewed the world renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking to ask his thoughts on the Higgs Boson discovery and the video clip was uploaded onto YouTube. In the video, Hawking joked about how he had lost a $100 bet he made with Michigan University professor Gordon King that Higgs Boson wouldn’t be found.
“The results at Fermi lab in America and CERN in Switzerland strongly suggest that we have found the next particle, the particle that gives mass to other particles. If the decay number interactions of this particle are as we expect, it will be strong evidence for the so-called Standard Model of particle physics, the theory that explains all our experiments so far. … This is an important result and should guaranty Higgs the Nobel Prize.”