And the hunt for the Higgs boson is just one of the ongoing projects at the particle accelerator. Other projects have such humble goals as explaining dark matter, revealing the symmetries of the universe and even looking for new dimensions of space, according to the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.
"It really is a machine that's capable of going to higher energies, maybe ultimately to a factor of seven times higher energy," said Peter Woit, a physicist at Columbia University. "Which means going to distances seven times smaller and basically looking for anything you can find."
Here are the major projects ongoing at the LHC:
ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment @ CERN): By smashing particles together, scientists can recreate the first few milliseconds after the Big Bang, illuminating the early history of the universe. A detector 52 feet (16 meters) high and 85 feet (261 m) long enables scientists to study what's known as quark-gluon plasma. The researchers collide heavy ions, liberating their quarks and gluons (quarks are the constituent part of protons, which are held together by gluons). It takes a machine like the LHC to separate these atomic particles and study them individually.
ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus): This is the experiment that observed a Higgs in July. But ATLAS's work isn't done. The LHC, and the ATLAS detector, are currently in shutdown mode, preparing for an energy increase. When LHC starts up again after 2013, the atom smasher will be able to fling protons at each other at 14 teraelectronvolts (TeV), double its previous 7 TeV.