CERN answers queries from social media

Is the Large Hadron Collider dangerous?

No. Although powerful for an accelerator, the energy reached in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is modest by nature’s standards.  Cosmic rays – particles produced by events in outer space – collide with particles in the Earth’s atmosphere at much greater energies than those of the LHC. These cosmic rays have been bombarding the Earth’s atmosphere as well as other astronomical bodies since these bodies were formed, with no harmful consequences. These planets and stars have stayed intact despite these higher energy collisions over billions of years.

Read more about the safety of the LHC here

What happened with the LHC in 2015 and what does CERN plan to do in the future?

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) restarted at a collision energy of 13 teraelectronvolts (TeV) in June 2015. Throughout September and October 2015, CERN gradually increased the number of collisions, while remaining at the same energy. In November, as with previous LHC runs, the machine run with lead ions instead of protons until mid-December when it had its winter technical stop.

After a successful run in 2016, the most powerful collider in the world was switched back on in spring 2017, followed by a period of tests. After a period of commissioning, the LHC experiments began taking physics data for 2017. Over the coming years, the LHC operators plan to increase the intensity of the beams so that the machine produces a larger number of collisions. This will enable physicists to have a better understanding of fundamental physics.

Why is the Higgs boson referred to as the God particle?

The Higgs boson is the linchpin of the Standard Model of particle physics but experimental physicists weren’t able to observe it until the arrival of the LHC, nearly 50 years after the particle was first postulated. Leon Lederman coined the term ‘the God particle’ in his popular 1993 book ‘The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What is the Question?’ written with Dick Teresi. In their book, Lederman and Teresi claim the nickname originated because the publisher wouldn’t allow them to call it ‘the Goddamn Particle’ – a name that reflected the difficulty in observing the elusive boson. The name caught on through the media attention it attracted but is disliked by both clerics and scientists.

Is CERN's aim to prove that God does not exist?

No. People from all over the world work together harmoniously at CERN, representing all regions, religions and cultures. CERN exists to understand the mystery of nature for the benefit of humankind. Scientists at CERN use the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments to study the basic constituents of matter – the fundamental particles. Particles are made to collide together at close to the speed of light. This process gives the physicists clues about how the particles interact, and provides insights into the fundamental laws of nature.

Why does CERN have a statue of Shiva?

The Shiva statue was a gift from India to celebrate its association with CERN, which started in the 1960’s and remains strong today. In the Hindu religion, Lord Shiva practiced Nataraj dance which symbolises Shakti, or life force. This deity was chosen by the Indian government because of a metaphor that was drawn between the cosmic dance of the Nataraj and the modern study of the ‘cosmic dance’ of subatomic particles. India is one of CERN’s associate member states. CERN is a multicultural organisation that welcomes scientists from more than 100 countries and 680 institutions. The Shiva statue is only one of the many statues and art pieces at CERN.

The shapes in CERN’s current logo represent particle accelerators. The logo in this form dates back to 1968, when a decision was made to change the CERN logo from the original one, seen here. Some 114 new designs were proposed, many of which used CERN’s experiments as inspiration. The final design used the original lettering, surrounded by a schematic of a synchrotron, beam lines and particle tracks. Today’s logo is a simplified version of this.

Will CERN open a door to another dimension?

CERN will not open a door to another dimension. If the experiments conducted at the LHC demonstrate the existence of certain particles it could help physicists to test various theories about nature and our Universe, such as the presence of extra dimensions. There is more information here.

What did Stephen Hawking say about Higgs potential destroying the Universe?

Hawking was not discussing the work being done at the LHC.

The LHC observes nature at a fundamental level but does not influence it. Measurements of the Higgs bosonhave allowed us to learn more about the intrinsic nature of the Universe, and it is this that Hawking was discussing. The measured properties of the boson suggest that the Universe is in a quasi-stable equilibrium, though with a lifetime far exceeding anything we can imagine (10100 years). This is explained further in the TEDxCERN talk below:

Why does CERN appear in Google Maps when I type certain keywords?

Many of these associations have no grounding in fact, and are a possible result of several users renaming locations on their own maps, keyword searches, or from lots of users creating custom maps, which utilise those search terms.

Can the LHC have an influence on weather patterns and natural phenomena?

No. The magnets at CERN have an electromagnetic field, which is contained with the magnets themselves and therefore cannot influence the Earth’s magnetic field, nor the weather. The strength of the LHC magnets (8.36 teslas) is comparable to the magnetic field found in PET-MRI scanners (up to 9.4 tesla), which are regularly used for brain scans.

Will CERN generate a black hole?

The LHC will not generate black holes in the cosmological sense. However, some theories suggest that the formation of tiny 'quantum' black holes may be possible. The observation of such an event would be thrilling in terms of our understanding of the Universe; and would be perfectly safe. More information is available here.

I saw a video of a strange ritual at CERN, is it real?

No, this video from summer 2016 was a work of fiction showing a contrived scene. CERN does not condone this kind of action, which breaches CERN’s professional guidelines. Those involved were identified and apropriate measures taken.

Does the LHC trigger earthquakes?

The LHC does not trigger earthquakes. Earthquakes are a natural hazard caused by the movement of tectonic plates. As these rigid plates move towards, apart or past each other they can lock up and build up huge stresses at their boundaries, such as the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, or along the Pacific rim. When the plates suddenly slip apart, this stress is relieved, releasing huge amounts of energy and causing an earthquake.

Several million earthquakes occur across the Earth each year but most are too small to be detected without monitoring equipment. There is no means by which the LHC could trigger earthquakes, and no correlation between LHC operation and the occurrence of earthquakes.

Anecdote: Some high precision instruments at CERN are able to detect earthquakes due to their sensitivity to tiny movements. In the LHC, there are more than 100 Hydrostatic Levelling Sensors that monitor the relative displacements of the magnets that steer beams of particles around the LHC’s 27 km ring. These sensors can detect the waves emitted by earthquakes occurring even very far away after their journey through the Earth. Another tool, the Precision Laser Inclinometer, is used to measure the movements of underground structures that can affect the precise positioning of the LHC’s particle detectors. These are also sensitive enough to detect earthquakes.