MADISON (WKOW) -- A giant atom smasher is finding data never found before: and a big part of that experiment started right here in Madison.
The biggest scientific experiment of all time, the Hadron Collider, made history Tuesday morning.
The UW-Madison has one of the largest university presences in Switzerland, working on the experiment.
Madison physicts say the 10-billion dollar physics project is creating a new era for the science world.
In an underground tunnel stretching from Switzerland to France, 17 miles long, particles in this large Hadron Collider smashed into each other Tuesday morning at energy levels three times more.. than ever before. There to witness it all: UW-Madison physics professor Sau Lan Wu.
Sau Lan Wu spoke to us from Switzerland, saying, "I started working on this experiment in 1993. Imagine how many years there are! So finally, hopefully, in the coming years, we're going to have something really exciting."
Wu's been working on this project with a team of about 30 UW-Madison personnel, including a dozen students. Physics professor Wesley Smith was part of the early design of the project, and currently maintains a portion of it. Smith says, "We've seen collisions that have never been duplicated since the Big Bang. None of us were around to see that.. so it's the first time human beings have seen a collision at these energies."
Scientists are hoping these collisions will create new forms of matter, and could hold the key to understanding why things have the mass they do.
Smith adds, "It seems like a simple question: you should get a refund on your physics course if we can't tell you where mass comes from! We can't tell you where mass comes from, we can't tell you where 95-percent of matter in the universe comes from. We don't know where it is."
Interestingly enough, there are pieces of Madison in the project. Professor Smith showed us the actual devices that analyze the collisions, created by UW-Madison researchers. They still have a number of them in a lab on campus: the others (300 others) are on the Hadron Collider. The best part? The boards say UW Wisc, and sport a "badger red." Smith says those touring the 17 mile-long project see the Wisconsin label.
Smith wraps it up saying, "It's the beginning of a long journey.. and every journey starts with a single step."
What scientists are hoping to find is a particle called the Higgs Boson: that's part of a theory of mass currently missing.
Another interesting fact? More than a million DVD's worth of data comes from the collider in just one year.