V3.co.uk was lucky enough to be invited to the headquarters of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) to see what lies behind one of the greatest technological and scientific projects on the planet. Here, groundbreaking experiments are being conducted in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), generating an entire petabyte of data every second.
We also snapped a few images along the way.
Straddling the border of France and Switzerland, the project at CERN represents a pinnacle in international scientific collaboration, with 20 nations supplying funding to the project to enable scientists to look for the origins of the universe.
There are four islands of computer banks at CERN for the management of the main tools, including the LHC, and this requires nine full time staff to be in the room every second of the year.
A cutaway of the LHC showing the two tubes through which particles are fired in opposite directions at just below the speed of light (299,792,458m/s) eventually meaning they can complete a 27km loop 11,000 times a second.
A replica model of what the LHC looks like underground. There are only eight entrace points to the tunnel, meaning staff may have to walk several kilometres to reach the fault they are trying to fix. Or they can take a bicycle.
The entire LHC is cooled to a temperature of 1.9 kelvin (-271C) so every piece of metal has to expand and contract - the entire machine becomes 80m longer or shorter depending on its heat, so building links into the metal like this is crucial.
Four machines capture the results of the impact at the four collision points, sending back huge amounts of data to the CERN control centre where it is stored for analysis.
This creates around 25PB of data which CERN needs to store, but rather than doing it all itself, the organisation stores around 20 per cent. It uses the Grid, a world network of datacentres and storage facilities that, in agreement with CERN, hosts the rest of the data.
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