CERN's Large Hadron Collider, which famously discovered a particle that walks and talks like the Higgs Boson but is as yet unconfirmed, will shut down February 16 for two years of upgrades and repairs.
Located on the border of Switzerland and France, the LHC sends two beams of protons in opposite directions around a 17-mile ring, and six detectors collect data from these collisions. Scientists design computer programs tailored to pick the most interesting collisions out of the 600 million collisions produced every second.
A copy of the data from those collisions is recorded and kept at CERN. As of the shutdown, CERN had collected a colossal 100 petabytes of data; roughly double the amount it would take to collect every single word of every single human language in existence.
Repairs will address a 2008 malfunction that caused the collider to run at half power until now. The machine ran at 8 trillion electron-volts (teraelectronvolts; TeV) in 2012, but when the shutdown concludes at the end of 2014, it should run at 14TeV, providing the highest-energy collisions ever attempted. At the same time, scientists plan to increase data transfer capabilities higher than the current six gigabytes per second.
But CERN physicists aren't worried about a two-year delay in running more collisions to look for more phenomena. 100 petabytes of data will give them plenty to analyze and report on in the meantime.