The Large Hadron Collider was switched back on earlier this year, after three years of upgrades and maintenance works. Roughly three months later, on 5 July 2022, the first collisions used for physics data taking took place at the record energy of 13.6 teraelectronvolts, marking the beginning of the LHC’s third physics run (Run 3). Just the day before, CERN had celebrated the ten-year mark since the ATLAS and CMS experiments announced the discovery of a new particle consistent with the long-awaited Higgs boson.
The world has changed in many ways over these past ten years, yet the universe’s mysteries and the LHC continue to excite and inspire: almost five million people (4.73M) connected live on CERN’s social media and through other broadcasting services to watch the engineers in charge of the LHC deliver collisions to the experiments for the first time in three years. At its peak, the event garnered 75 700 viewers; 59 600 comments were posted on social media during CERN’s two-hour livestream.
These impressive figures are the fruit of a six-month-long conversation between CERN and its communities, from local to digital, centred around the milestones of the year and involving a legion of physicists, engineers, technicians and communication professionals. The conversation also included events such as a new exhibition, four local film screenings that brought in almost 500 participants, articles for teachers and a scientific symposium that brought together 1150 remote participants and nearly 400 in-person attendees.
In total, news outlets from around the world produced 6900 articles about the anniversary and Run 3 for publications worldwide. On social media, CERN was mentioned 727 100 times from January to August 2022, and 17 800 of those mentions made specific reference to either the restart, Run 3 or the anniversary. Together, the broadcasting of the Scientific Symposium to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Higgs boson discovery and of the launch of Run 3 caused the hashtags #Higgs10 and #LHCRun3 to “trend” in Switzerland, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States. CERN’s website saw a sevenfold increase in traffic, 75% of which was new visitors.
The milestones of the year 2022 allowed the particle physics community to celebrate the achievements of the past ten years while looking forward to a new physics run at the LHC. In parallel, these events afforded CERN an opportunity to reach a broader audience: they brought the curious to CERN’s platforms, where they were able to find more information about the Higgs boson and the Standard Model, the benefits of CERN’s research in fields like medical and aerospace technologies, CERN’s efforts to mitigate the impact of its research activities on the environment, and our expectations for future projects like the High-Luminosity LHC. In the process, the three milestones set the scene for these future projects, the full operation of the LHC and the search for new physics.