When touring the Large Hadron Collider, stay with your group

Funny animation illustrates the potential risk of wandering

Ever wonder what really happens inside the Large Hadron Collider? This amusing animation from Oxford Sparks offers a clue, although the audio too realistically recreates the frustration of trying to understand a muffled public address system (fortunately, it's funny even without the sound):

Quick recap: Our green protagonist (protonagist?) is with a tour group - which includes Grandma minding her knitting -- but wanders off for a door marked "Team Proton 1." Mr. Green follows the team for unknown reasons that he comes to regret.

"Welcome aboard the Large Hadron Collider," says the PA speaker. "Your journey today will take you ... I regret to say that some of you will not ... The whole world appreciates the sacrifice ..."

Mr. Green frantically tries to pry open the door, then scribbles a note to show Grandma, who because she kept to her knitting, is safely on the outside: "There has been a terrible mistake!" ... No help.

Then it's off to the races - Team Proton 1, plus Mr. Green - begins flying toward its inevitable meeting with Team Proton 2, a prospective collision that produces much consternation for Mr. Green, a yucky stream of yellow for one of the orange protons, cartoonishly violent collisions for all concerned, and, yes indeed, a cameo appearance by a Higgs boson ... wearing a hat.

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This page offers more information, noting: "The Large Hadron Collider may not work quite as seen in our animation, but much of the science mentioned is accurate."

In the collision that takes place in the animation a "Higgs boson" particle (is) produced (look for the 'H' and the hat with the flower in it!).

higgs

This very special particle is believed to play an important role in giving other particles mass. In the Standard Model of particle physics the Higgs field is found everywhere in space. It is theorised that all the particles in the Standard Model pick up their mass through interactions with this Higgs field. The Higgs boson is a particle created through the energetic excitation of this field. Searches for Higgs particles were proposed as early as the 1960s. The theory is elegant, however the particle has proved hard to find, and had not yet been discovered when the LHC started high-energy operation in 2010.

Only a tiny fraction of the proton-proton collisions - about one in a billion - is expected to produce a Higgs boson, so billions of these collisions are needed to create enough Higgs particles to make meaningful measurements. In the Large Hadron Collider, the bunches of protons pass through each other up to 40 million times per second, with tens of collisions between individual protons each time. The same beams can be used for several hours before the machine has to be refilled with "fresh" protons.

The YouTube notes for the animation assure us: "No protons were harmed in the making of this animation."

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