The world’s largest particle accelerator just made history (again). Animations from TEDxCERN to help explain particle physics

TUNNEL3D V2aCOMPO smooth panoramic montage

The Large Hadron Collider tunnel (Photo: Dominguez, Daniel; Brice, Maximilien, CERN)

Update (6/3/2015): The experiments at CERN are now taking data from collisions sent at 13 teraelectron volts.

Two weeks ago, the people (and particle accelerator) at CERN made history by colliding particles at the highest energy humankind has ever accomplished. Tests in the 17-mile ring of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) sent particles at a whopping 13 teraelectron volts, which powers particles to move at 99.999999% of the speed of light.

The collisions were part of a process to prep the machine for future collisions, ones that physicists will use for experiments searching for new information about our world, universe and the physics that governs it.

On June 3, those collisions happened. Says CERN: “After an almost two year shutdown and several months re-commissioning, the LHC is now providing collisions to all of its experiments at the unprecedented energy of 13 TeV, almost double the collision energy of its first run.”

While none of us knows for sure what physicists will find at this new energy, this record-breaking accomplishment shows promise for discovering new information about things like dark matter, antimatter and the Higgs boson.

To help explain the science going on at CERN, TEDxCERN teamed with TED-Ed to make a series of animations that make particle physics seem like a piece of cake. Below, five TED-Ed lessons from TEDxCERN to prep you for this new epoch in science:

Dark matter: The matter we can’t see — James Gillies
The Greeks had a simple and elegant formula for the universe: earth, fire, wind and water. Turns out there’s more to it than that — a lot more. Visible matter (and that goes beyond the four Greek elements) comprises only 4% of the universe. CERN scientist James Gillies tells us what accounts for the remaining 96% (dark matter and dark energy) and how we might go about detecting it.

The basics of the Higgs boson — Dave Barney and Steven Goldfarb
In 2012, scientists at CERN discovered evidence of the Higgs boson. The what? The Higgs boson is one of two types of fundamental particles, and it’s a particular game-changer in the field of particle physics, proving how particles gain mass. Using the Socratic method, CERN scientists Dave Barney and Steve Goldfarb explain the exciting implications of the Higgs boson.

What happened to antimatter? — Rolf Landua
Particles come in pairs, which is why there should be an equal amount of matter and antimatter in the universe. Yet scientists have not been able to detect antimatter in the visible universe. Where is this missing particle? CERN scientist Rolf Landua returns to the seconds after the Big Bang to explain the disparity that allows humans to exist today.

If matter falls down, does antimatter fall up? – Chloé Malbrunot
Like positive and negative, or debit and credit, matter and antimatter are equal and opposite. So if matter falls down, does antimatter fall up? Chloé Malbrunot investigates that question by placing two atoms — one made of matter, and the other antimatter — in the cockpit of a plane, ready to jump. What do you think will happen?

The beginning of the universe, for beginners — Tom Whyntie
How did the universe begin — and how is it expanding? CERN physicist Tom Whyntie shows how cosmologists and particle physicists explore these questions by replicating the heat, energy, and activity of the first few seconds of our universe, from right after the Big Bang.


  1. Charl Stander

    Fantastic to read on Facebook.However I would love to receive the above by email so I can save it to read to my grandchildren and very important to my own children

  2. Wonderful way of explaining. I like it :)

  3. Akshay

    Nicely put in very compact presentations. A topic which is very hard to digest is explained in a very simple yet effective manner. I am a regular watcher of TED presentation. Keep it up!

  4. Pingback: 1 – The world’s largest particle accelerator just made history | Exploding Ads

  5. mpc755

    The notions of dark matter and the dark matter particle are incorrect. The mass which fills ‘empty’ space is beginning to be referred to as the ‘dark mass’ in order to distinguish it from the baggage associated with dark matter.

    ‘Dark Energy/Dark Mass: The Slient Truth’

    “That is, all that we are certain about [is] the dark mass, not dark matter, let alone to say about the dark ‘particle’.”

    Particles of matter move through and displace the dark mass, including ‘particles’ as large as galaxies and galaxy clusters.

    The Milky Way moves through and curves spacetime.

    The Milky Way moves through and displaces the dark mass.

    The state of displacement of the dark mass is curved spacetime.

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