A particle accelerator uses electromagnetic energy fields to control the speed and direction of small, charged particles. The particles that can be accelerated include electrons, protons, various ionized atoms, and even exotic particles such as positrons and antiprotons. The simplest particle accelerator is the familiar television set. Cathode-ray tube, or CRT, televisions work by shooting an electron gun at the screen, with the direction shifting incrementally to create the rows that were clearly visible on older models. (Newer flat-screen models work differently.) The particle accelerators that are used for various science applications today are hugely different in terms of their size, energy, cost, complexity, variability, and purposes; but the fundamental principle is really that simple.

Edmund Wilson estimates that there are over 10,000 accelerators in operation ...

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