Scientists young and old were gathered around clusters of computer terminals in front of large screens nervously contemplating the culmination of a decade of preparation.
The flashing of two white dots on a computer screen indicated that the protons had reached the final point of the world’s largest particle accelerator.
What is less of a secret is the much-hyped danger that the particle accelerator might create many black holes which would eventually tear the Earth apart.
The scientists involved in the experiment do not believe this will happen – and those in the Atlas control room certainly did not look as if they were preparing for the end of the world.
There is no talk of black holes or impending doom – which are regarded as the closest thing to an impossibility as it is possible for scientists to predict.
Pet scanners, radiotherapy machines, even the World Wide Web have been developed thanks to Cern techniques and similar technological advances can be predicted as a result of these experiments.
At a cost of £4.4bn and running up an annual electricity bill of £15m, the big money is on the big question: can this machine help explain the origins of the universe?