The discovery of the Higgs is more than a profound vindication of advanced mathematics and its application in theoretical physics. It is also a surprising engineering and political achievement. No single nation is prepared to invest in a project as technically difficult and high-risk as the Large Hadron Collider. The machine itself is 27 kilometres in circumference and is constructed from 9,300 superconducting electromagnets operating at -271.3°C. There is no known place in the universe that cold outside laboratories on earth; in the 13.75 billion years since the Big Bang occurred, the universe is still roughly 1° warmer than the LHC. This makes it by far the largest refrigerator in the world; it contains almost 120 tonnes of liquid helium. Buried inside the magnets are two beam pipes, which, at ultra-high vacuum, contain circulating beams of protons travelling at 99.9999991 per cent the speed of light, circumnavigating the ring 11,245 times every second. Up to 600 million protons are brought into collision every second, and in each of these tiny explosions, the conditions that were present less than a billionth of a second after the Big Bang are re-created.
more from Brian Cox at The New Statesman here.