In order to peer deep within the atom to determine the basic building blocks of matter, physicists use particle accelerators, multi-million dollar facilities designed to accelerate charged particles to very high velocities. These particles, usually protons and antiprotons or electrons and antielectrons are then smashed into each other, releasing tremendous amounts of energy and producing new types of matter, some of which hasn't been around since the beginning of the time! Sensitive detectors are used to "see" these new particles. These laboratories are the microscopes of the high energy physics world.

Below is a brief description of three of these labs, with links to their web pages for a more detailed summary of the exciting physics taking place at these facilities. There are many more labs like these around the world doing a whole variety of research. For a listing of more labs, follow this link to Fermilab's "Inquiring Minds" page.

Located in Batavia, Illinois, outside of Chicago, Fermilab is currently the most powerful particle accelerator lab in the world, accelerating protons and antiprotons to energies close to one trillion electron volts each (that translates to speeds just barely slower than the speed of light!)
The particles begin their journey in the linear accelerator, a 500 foot long pipe wich gives them their initial push (it is too small to see in this view of the lab). They then move to the main injector which is the small ring to the left and finally to the large ring on the right, the "Tevetron", the final stage in the particles' journey, which has a circumferance of about 4 miles. At two seperate locations along this ring the proton and antiproton beams cross and the particles collide. The two main detectors, D-Zero and CMF are located at these points.

CERN (The European Center for Nuclear Research) is located near Lake Lacerne outside Geneva, Switzerland. Half of the large ring is in Switzerland, and half in France - a truely international laboratory. Beginning November 8, 2001, the lab will be undergoing an upgrade, and a more powerful beam of protons and antiprotons will be the result. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is expected to be up and going by 2005. Total energies of the collisions between particles are expected to be on the order of 14 trillion electron volts, 7 times greater than energies now achieved at Fermilab.

The Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC) is located at Stanford University in Menlo Park, California, and is different from the other two accelerators in several way. This facility accelerates electrons and antielectrons (positrons) as opposed to protons/antiprotons and therefor is linear instead of circular (to find out more about why electron/positron accelerators are typically linear and not circular, check out SLAC's website).
One of the current experiments being run is looking at a phenomanon called "CP violation", which could help explain why the universe is composed mostly of matter and not antimatter. Unstable B-mesons (particles composed of bottom quarks) are produced in what is called a "B-factory", and then the modes of decay are observed using a 1200 ton detector called BaBar. There have recently been some very exciting results and analysis of the data is continuing.

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