Following two false starts due to electrical failures, protons whipped to more than 99 percent of the speed of light and to energy levels of 3.5 trillion electron volts apiece around a 17-mile underground magnetic racetrack outside of Geneva a little after 1 p.m. local time. They crashed together inside apartment-building sized detectors designed to capture every evanescent flash and fragment from microscopic fireballs thought to hold insights into the beginning of the world.
The soundless blooming of proton explosions was accompanied by the hoots and applause of scientists crowded into control rooms at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, which built the collider.
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