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Date: Around 1993


Question:
How fast can a particle accelerator move an atom?



Replies:
Well, technically speaking, a particle accelerator does not normally move "atoms", since atoms are neutral objects, and the accelerators only move charged objects. But that probably was not what you had in mind. Once you have accelerated particles to very close to the speed of light, the actual speed really is not the interesting quantity. The interesting quantity is the total energy (rest mass + kinetic energy) of the accelerated particle, which is usually many times the rest energy m0 c^2. The biggest accelerators of electrons (at SLAC and Cornell) can achieve 10-50 GeV per electron, or up to 100,000 times the rest energy (511 MeV) of the electron. Those are pretty huge energy increases!

A. Smith



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