Seeing is believing: Using the power of 10 billion suns to light up our world

International Year of Light Blog

What is the fastest thing on Earth? Usain Bolt? A cheetah? Lewis Hamilton in a Formula 1 racing car? Unless we delve into the realms of quantum physics, we all know that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. But there are a few things that can get close. Electrons, for example, inside a particle accelerator race around at a fraction below the speed of light; so fast they could complete 7.5 revolutions of the Earth’s equator in one second.

Arguably the world’s most famous particle accelerator is the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Switzerland, where protons are accelerated and collided to give scientists a glimpse inside atoms and help us better understand the origins of our universe. But not all particle accelerators are atom smashers. In the 1940s scientists discovered something called synchrotron radiation – a special kind of extremely bright light which they realised could be…

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