Not many people, if asked to look for God - or at least evidence of divine intent - would choose a point 150 metres beneath the Franco-Swiss border, between the Alps and the Jura Mountains. But this is precisely where, and arguably what, the Large Hadron Collider is designed for; to re-create the conditions thought to have existed a few billionths of a second after the universe was born. And in so doing, maybe nab a few zipping Higgs bosons, colloquially called 'God particles'.

The LHC is no small undertaking. It has been built by and located at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, near Geneva. Thousands of scientists and technicians from 85 countries have soaked up a decade and a half and several billions of dollars to build the most sophisticated man-made tool in history, all to try to detect what is quasi-thrillingly described as "...the last unobserved particle among those predicted by the Standard Model."

The LHC is a giant circular vacuum tube. The tube is many yards from wall to wall. Oh. And it has a 17-mile circumference. The vast interior of the entire honking edifice is supercooled to absolute zero with liquid helium. It is festooned - 'festooned' being a relative term, considering the cool and technical neatness of the the device's appearance - with inconceivably powerful, cryogenically-cooled, electromagnets that must hold on course the twin opposed particle beams that dance through it, toward each other, after enormous jolts of electricity kick their asses to near-lightspeed. The magnets are inconceivably powerful because each beam clutches in its sweaty bosom half the energy of a lightning bolt.

Several very highly-tuned detectors are designed to witness the twin opposed beams smack each other face-first, after they reach the aforementioned near-lightspeed: Compact Muon Solenoids are broad-spectrum particle detectors that sniff the frosty not-air for stray Higgs bosons. Others include the LHCb or Large Hadron Collider beauty, which is designed specifically to look for clues as to what happened to most of the anti-matter created in the Big Bang.


ALICE is a pretty little acronym for a pretty plain Jane moniker: "A. L.arge I.on C.ollider E.xperiment". ALICE is all about finding a form of matter best described as a liquid, at least for the purposes of imagining how it acts compared with other forms of matter. This liquid is otherwise known as Quark-Gluon Plasma. Apparently, deep scientific thinkers tell us, Quark-Gluon Plasma popped into existence pretty well immediately after the Big Bang...