• Question: what happens when tiny particles are collided together at very high speeds?

    Asked by part354car to Lucy on 14 Jun 2019.
    • Photo: Lucy Budge

      Lucy Budge answered on 14 Jun 2019:

      There’s a huge mess of particles coming out of the collision! At the Large Hadron Collider (a European particle physics experiment) we get 600 million collisions per second!

      “bunches” of protons (the tiny particles) are collided every 25 ns (0.000000025 seconds), each time giving around 20 collisions.

      Because these particles are so small and the collisions smash the protons into the smaller particles they are made of (quarks) we can’t see what happens! So we try to “catch” all of the particles coming out of the collision and work backwards to understand what happened in the middle.

      Even though the initial particle are just protons (and their quarks) we can get all sorts coming out – electrons, for example, and we can produce a particle called the higgs boson which decays incredibly quickly to give more quarks or electrons, or a mixture!