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Countdown begins to "Big Bang" machine launch

A start date has been given for a particle accelerator built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern) in Geneva.

This content was published on August 7, 2008 - 17:24

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will be used by physicists to explore the make-up of "dark matter" – the invisible mass of energy that is believed to form 96 per cent of the universe.

The first attempt to circulate a beam in the SFr6 billion ($5.95 billion) instrument will be made on September 10, Cern announced on Thursday.

"It's been a long haul and we're eager to get the LHC research programme underway," said project leader Lyn Evans.

The accelerator will smash particles together at high speeds within a 27-kilometre tunnel. Scientists hope it will recreate the conditions that existed after the Big Bang, the theory that the universe expanded from an extremely dense and hot state some 13.7 billion years ago and continues to expand today.

The LHC tunnel runs between Lake Geneva and the Jura mountain range and generates temperatures colder than deep space. It has been in construction for 15 years.

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