The excitement is building again here at CERN. The LHC team is planning to collide protons in the LHC for several hours tomorrow, and the next few days after. The goal is to provide the experiments with their first million collisions (a few weeks ago we had only a few hundred). We need millions of collisions just to start to calibrate the detector, and to re-discover some of the well known particles (that will be created in the collisions via E=mc^2) and prove our detectors are working correctly. There are a few differences between the upcoming collisions and the first collisions a few weeks ago. First, there will be more protons in the LHC (probably about 4 billion protons in each “bunch” of protons, with 4 bunches simultaneously going in each direction around the LHC). Second, the LHC teams have been carefully studying the beams in the LHC in the last few weeks so the bunches of protons should be better packed together. This will decrease the number of protons straying away into the beam pipe, allowing the beams to stay in the machine for hours, and leading to more collisions.
This is not a chance to discover the Higgs boson (that will probably take many years), but it will be the first time we use the whole detector together to detect a significant number of collisions. In the next few weeks, we will collect enough data to do quite a few checks and calibrations.
CERN closes December 18 for a few weeks, and we won’t have beams back in the LHC until at least February. While we wait, we will analyze the data collected in the next few weeks. Then the LHC will ramp up the energy of the beams and we will have billions and billions of collisions through the rest of 2010.