When the accelerator is fired up, two parallel beams of particles will be blasted around the underground ring in opposite directions. At four locations on the circuit, superconducting magnets will bend the beams so that groups of protons smash into each other in a giant chamber rigged with equipment to record the collisions and their aftermath.
Around 300 computer centres in 50 countries will handle data from the vast atom smasher for the next decade, marking what will be the biggest computing exercise in history.
Handing the deluge of data will mark a test for the next generation of computing, called The Grid or "the cloud", and the biggest development in global communication since Tim Berners-Lee, the British inventor of the internet, wrote "www" on a blackboard in 1989 on the site of the huge machine.
The backbone of the grid will be computer centres filled with thousands of PCs linked together. The biggest concentration is the 80,000 PCs in a "farm" at the Large Hadron Collider, part of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN, near Geneva.
When the experiments get running at the LHC, the four great "eyes" of the machine start observing collisions, they will generate 15 million gigabytes of data every year, that is equivalent to one thousand times the information printed in the form of books annually.
"If you put them on CDs and stacked them up, that stack would be more than 12 miles (20 kilometers) tall." said Dr Bob Jones, Director of the EGEE, Enabling grids for e-science project, which is co-funded by the European Commission.
Or, in terms of iPod data, the annual output of the atom smasher is equivalent to a song running for 24,000 years.
When activated, it is theorized that the collider will produce the elusive Higgs boson, the observation of which could confirm the predictions and missing links in the Standard Model of physics and could explain how other elementary particles acquire properties such as mass. The verification of the existence of the Higgs boson would be a significant step in the search for a Grand Unified Theory, which seeks to unify three of the four known fundamental forces: electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force, leaving out only gravity.BBC Radio 4 will devote a day of programming to the LHC, including covering first injection of beams live on the Today programme. See the BBC website for programming, background etc.
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