CERN has shut down its Large Hadron Collider for two years in order to conduct a scheduled tune-up. Accordingly, the anticipated end of world event (or confirmation of the god particle if you are an atheistic optimist) has been postponed until approximately 2015.
The Large Hadron Collider is a 16 1/2 mile wide circular particle accelerator located in Europe near Geneva. It was constructed completely underground, approximately 300 feet below the surface due to safety concerns. Physicists use the Large Hadron Collider to study the smallest known particles, which are presently considered the fundamental building blocks of all things. Their hope is to revolutionize our understanding of the Universe.
The Large Hadron Collider sends two beams of either protons or lead ions in opposite directions through the particle accelerator which gain energy with every lap. At a predetermined point, the two beams collide at a very high energy which is believed to recreate the conditions just after the Big Bang. Physicists then analyze the particles created by the collisions using special sensors.
The tune-up underway is intended to significantly increase the amount of energy with which the Large Hadron Collider can smash two pieces of matter together (approximately 14 Tera-electron Volts). At present, the most that CERN has been able to achieve is 8 Tera-electron Volts.