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The Fantastic Machine That Found the Higgs Boson

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On July 4, scientists working with data from ongoing experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) announced the discovery of a new particle "consistent with" the Higgs boson -- a subatomic particle also colloquially referred to as the "God particle." After years of design and construction, the LHC first sent protons around its 27 kilometer (17 mile) underground tunnel in 2008. Four years later, the LHC's role in the discovery of the Higgs boson provides a final missing piece for the Standard Model of Particle Physics -- a piece that may explain how otherwise massless subatomic particles can acquire mass. Gathered here are images from the construction of the massive $4-billion-dollar machine that allowed us peer so closely into the subatomic world. [34 photos]

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View of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) Tracker Outer Barrel in the cleaning room on January 19, 2007. The CMS is a general-purpose detector, part of the Large hadron Collider (LHC), and is capable of studying many aspects of proton collisions at 14 trillion electronvolts. (Maximilien Brice/© 2012 CERN)
View of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) Tracker Outer Barrel in the cleaning room on January 19, 2007. The CMS is a general-purpose detector, part of the Large hadron Collider (LHC), and is capable of studying many aspects of proton collisions at 14 trillion electronvolts. (Maximilien Brice/© 2012 CERN)
Civil Engineering in the ATLAS cavern. This cavern that will eventually house the ATLAS experiment, part of the LHC at CERN. February 22, 2000. (Laurent Guiraud/© 2012 CERN) #
Various phases of the instrumentation of the ATLAS barrel tile calorimeter at CERN. ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus) is one of seven particle detector experiments constructed at the Large Hadron Collider. October 28, 1997. (Laurent Guiraud/© 2012 CERN) #
Part of the LHC, in its tunnel at CERN (European Center for Nuclear Research) near Geneva, Switzerland, on May 31, 2007. (AP Photo/Keystone, Martial Trezzini) #
The globe of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN, illuminated outside Geneva, Switzerland, on March 30, 2010. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) #
Pictures from the Compact Muon Solenoid pixel-strip integration test performed at the Tracker Integration Facility on July 18, 2007. (Maximilien Brice/© 2012 CERN) #
Work on the first half tracker inner barrel/inner disk in the Compact Muon Solenoid clean room, on October 19, 2006. (Maximilien Brice/© 2012 CERN) #
One module of the ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment) photon spectrometer. There are 3,584 lead tungstate crystals on the first module for the ALICE photon spectrometer. Lead tungstate crystals have the optical transparency of glass combined with much higher density, and can serve as scintillators, lighting up when when struck by an incoming particle. (Maximilien Brice/© 2012 CERN) #
A scientist performs maintenance in the CERN LHC computing grid center in Geneva, on October 3, 2008. This center is one of the 140 data processing centers, located in 33 countries, taking part in the grid processing project. More than 15 million Gigabytes of data produced from the hundreds of millions of subatomic collisions in the LHC should be collected every year. (Reuters/Valentin Flauraud) #
Precision work is performed on the semiconductor tracker barrel of the ATLAS experiment, on November 11, 2005. All work on these delicate components must be performed in a clean room so that impurities in the air, such as dust, do not contaminate the detector. The semiconductor tracker will be mounted in the barrel close to the heart of the ATLAS experiment to detect the path of particles produced in proton-proton collisions. (Maximilien Brice/© 2012 CERN) #
The huge ATLAS Toroid Magnet End-Cap A is transported between building 180 to ATLAS point 1 on May 29, 2007. (Claudia Marcelloni/© 2012 CERN) #
Lowering of one of the two ATLAS muon small wheels into the cavern, on February 15, 2008. The tunnel runs as deep as 175 meters (574 ft) underground. (Claudia Marcelloni/© 2012 CERN) #
View of the Compact Muon Solenoid cavern with its impressive dimensions: 53 meters long, 27 meters wide and 24 meters high. (Maximilien Brice/© 2012 CERN) #
A major milestone in the assembly of the ATLAS experiment's inner detector. The semiconductor tracker (SCT) and transition radiation tracker (TRT) are two of the three major parts of the ATLAS inner detector. Together, they will help determine trajectories of particle collisions produced when the LHC is switched on. February 22, 2006. (Maximilien Brice/© 2012 CERN) #
The electromagnetic calorimeter, completely assembled, is a wall more than 6 m high and 7 m wide, consisting of 3,300 blocks of scintillator, fibre optics and lead. This huge wall will measure the energy of particles produced in proton-proton collisions at the LHC when it is started in 2008. Photons, electrons and positrons will pass through the layers of material in these modules and deposit their energy in the detector through a shower of particles. May 17, 2005. (Maximilien Brice/© 2012 CERN) #
Integration of the ALICE experiment's inner tracker in 2007. (Maximilien Brice/© 2012 CERN) #
Physicist Peter Higgs, who the Higgs boson is named for, visits the ATLAS experiment in April of 2008. Higgs was one of the original proposers of the mechanism that predicted such a boson back in 1964. (Claudia Marcelloni/© 2012 CERN) #
Preparing for Tracker Installation, on December 12, 2007. (Michael Hoch/© 2012 CERN) #
A historical moment: closure of the LHC beam pipe ring on June 16, 2008. (Maximilien Brice/© 2012 CERN) #
The Linac2 (Linear Accelerator 2) at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN, in Meyrin, near Geneva, Switzerland, on Thursday, October 16, 2008. The current accelerator Linac2, built in 1978 which will be replaced in 2013 by Linac4, separates hydrogen gas into electrons and protons and provides protons beams to the LHC. (AP Photo/Keystone, Martial Trezzini) #
Engineers and technicians work to carefully align and install the inner detector in the center of ATLAS, on August 23, 2006. (Claudia Marcelloni/© 2012 CERN) #
Integration of the three shells into the ATLAS pixel barrel, on December 14, 2006. (Claudia Marcelloni/© 2012 CERN) #
The first half of the Compact Muon Solenoid inner tracker barrel is seen in this image consisting of three layers of silicon modules which will be placed at the center of the CMS experiment. Laying close to the interaction point of the 14 TeV proton-proton collisions, the silicon used here must be able to survive high doses of radiation and a powerful magnetic field without damage. October 19, 2006. (Maximilien Brice/© 2012 CERN) #
One of the end-cap calorimeters for the ATLAS experiment is moved using a set of rails. This calorimeter will measure the energy of particles that are produced close to the axis of the beam when two protons collide. It is kept cool inside a cryostat to allow the detector to work at maximum efficiency. February 16, 2007. (Claudia Marcelloni/© 2012 CERN) #
View of Compact Muon Solenoid detector assembly in late 2007. (Maximilien Brice/© 2012 CERN) #
Placing the Tracker inside the Compact Muon Solenoid (the tracker is still wrapped from its transport), on December 14, 2007. (Michael Hoch/© 2012 CERN) #
Michel Mathieu, a technician for the ATLAS collaboration, is cabling the ATLAS electromagnetic calorimeter's first end-cap, before insertion into its cryostat. Millions of wires are connected to the electromagnetic calorimeter on this end-cap that must be carefully fed out from the detector so that data can be read out. Every element on the detector will be attached to one of these wires so that a full digital map of the end-cap can be recreated. August 12, 2003. (Maximilien Brice/© 2012 CERN) #
In order for technicians to get around the 27-km tunnel that houses the LHC, various methods of transportation must be employed. October 24, 2005 (Maximilien Brice/© 2012 CERN) #
A welder works on the interconnection between two of the LHC's superconducting magnet systems, in the LHC tunnel, on November 1, 2007. (Maximilien Brice/© 2012 CERN) #
Moving the calorimeter on side A of the ATLAS cavern, in January of 2011. (Claudia Marcelloni/© 2012 CERN) #
Installation of the ATLAS pixel detector into the cavern, on June 28, 2007. (Claudia Marcelloni/© 2012 CERN) #
The eight toroid magnets can be seen surrounding the calorimeter that will later be moved into the middle of the detector. This calorimeter will measure the energies of particles produced when protons collide in the center of the detector. November 4, 2005. (Maximilien Brice/© 2012 CERN) #
Switches in the Control Room of the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) near Geneva, on April 5, 2012. On this day, the LHC shift crew declared "stable beams" as two 4 TeV proton beams were brought into collision at the LHC's four interaction points. The collision energy of 8 TeV set a new world record, and increased the machine's discovery potential considerably. (Reuters/Denis Balibouse) #
This image made available by CERN shows a typical candidate event including two high-energy photons whose energy (depicted by red towers) is measured in the Compact Muon Solenoid electromagnetic calorimeter. The yellow lines are the measured tracks of other particles produced in the collision. The pale blue volume shows the CMS crystal calorimeter barrel. To cheers and standing ovations, scientists at the world's biggest atom smasher claimed the discovery of a new subatomic particle on July 4, 2012, calling it "consistent" with the long-sought Higgs boson -- popularly known as the "God particle" -- that helps explain what gives all matter in the universe size and shape. (AP Photo/CERN) #

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