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'Big Bang Machine' Finally Ready to Smash Particles

The Large Hadron Collider is ready to start smashing its first particles together early next week after glitches with the $7.2 billion "big bang machine" were fixed by engineers.

Although scientists had hoped that the successful creation of the particle accelerator's first beams last Wednesday would clear the way for trial collisions this week, the timetable has had to be delayed because of power failures that affected its cooling system.

The problems were resolved finally Wednesday and the team was planning to resume circulating beams of protons around the 17-mile ring that night.

The success should allow the two beams to be fired in opposite directions early next week, and then crashed together inside the vast detectors of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

Although the energy of these first collisions will be only 6 percent of the maximum the LHC will achieve eventually, they will be a critical step forward.

Their results will enable scientists to calibrate and test the detectors, before collisions at about 70 per cent of the accelerator's capacity begin next month.

It is then that the LHC will start to provide data that could prove the existence of the Higgs boson — the so-called "God particle" — and answer other questions about the nature of the universe.

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• Click here to find out how the Large Hadron Collider works.

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