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Crash! Bang! The Large Hadron Collider24:17
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Computer screens in the Atlas control room capture the movements of the first beams circulating the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland on September 10, 2008.
Computer screens in the Atlas control room capture the movements of the first beams circulating the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland on September 10, 2008.

Three hundred feet underground on the French-Swiss border, the biggest physics experiment in history launched yesterday. The Large Hadron Collider.

The biggest atom smasher ever built: a seventeen-mile collision track, and sky-high hopes for cosmic breakthroughs in our understanding of the universe — of muons and gluons and quarks, of dark matter and black holes and — maybe — whole new space-time dimensions.

This hour, On Point: Particle physics, a giant new tool, the shape of the universe, and you.

You can join the conversation. What are your hopes and fears for the earth's largest atom smasher? What’s the cosmic question you want answered when it makes its own big bang?Guests:

Joining us from Paris is Adrian Cho, staff writer for Science magazine. He was at the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Switzerland yesterday when they fired up the Large Hadron Collider for its first big test.

Joining us from Driggs, Idaho, is Leon Lederman. He's an experimental physicist, and director emeritus of the Fermilab atom smasher, outside Chicago. He won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1988 for his work on neutrinos, and he coined the term "God particle" for the Higgs boson with his 1992 book "The God Particle: If the Universe is the Answer, What is the Question?"

Joining us from New York is Lisa Randall. She's a professor of theoretical physics at Harvard University, renowned for her work on string theory and author of "Warped Passages: Unraveling The Mysteries Of The Universe's Hidden Dimensions."

Also from New York, we're joined by Janna Levin. She's a professor of physics and astronomy at Columbia University, and author of the novel "A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines."

More links:

The official site of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN explains the science behind all the excitement.

Nature magazine's website offers an excellent interactive diagram of the LHC, part of its special section on the collider. Also worth a visit is the BBC's guide to the LHC.

And just for laughs, here's a (sort of) rap video about the LHC...

This program aired on September 11, 2008.

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