Large Hadron Collider : Big Bang
The Large Hadron Collider has started off with a bang for 2012, breaking records for energy output. Ongoing upgrades to the giant machine may help scientists zero in on the Higgs boson, which could explain the origins of our universe. NASA

The Large Hadron Collider broke records during its first performance of 2012, smashing millions of protons together to achieve an all-time high energy output of 8 trillion electron volts (TeV) on Thursday.

This boost in energy -- up a trillion electron volts since 2011 -- significantly increases the discovery capabilities of the collider. Scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) laboratories near Geneva have been slowly increasing the energy levels since 2008, reports BBC.

The experience of two good years of running at 3.5 TeV per beam gave us the confidence to increase the energy for this year without any significant risk to the machine, explained Steve Myers, the director for accelerators and technology at CERN. Now it's over to the experiments to make the best of the increased discovery potential we're delivering them!

The collider is a 27-kilometer circular tunnel beneath the border between France and Switzerland, through which bunches of protons can be fired against each other to recreate Big Bang conditions on a measurable scale.

This year, CERN scientists are on the fast track to either prove or disprove the existence of the Higgs boson, according to The Telegraph. CERN Director-General Rolf-Dieter Heuer has optimistically demanded that his scientists either confirm or deny the existence of a Higgs boson before the Hadron Collider shuts down in November for even more upgrades.

This is a great start to the 2012 run. It promises to be an amazing year for particle physics, said CERN researcher Oliver Buchmueller to the Christian Science Monitor.

The Higgs boson is an elusive particle that could explain why mass came to exist, or how something came from nothing. That's why the boson is often referred to as the 'God particle.'

Finding the Higgs boson could aid researchers in their as-yet quixotic quest of putting together a unified field theory, or a way to explain universal phenomena in a cohesive way. The hope is that one day, scientists the world over will settle on one predictive formula: a single elegant equation concise enough to fit on, say, a T-shirt.

It's a tall order. But throughout humanity's short recorded history, that hasn't stopped great thinkers from working to solve the enigma of our existence. The quest continues as the Hadron Collider revs up for another season of high-energy particle-smashing.