How much is 7 TeV?

I love nerding out with numbers and one recently caught my attention.  The Large Hadron Collider is the highest energy (man-made) particle collider in existence. In a few years, it will be operating at full energy, 7 TeV.  It is currently operating at half of that.

That got me thinking, how much is 1 TeV?  Also, what units are they in – is this mass, force, or something else.

For starters, an eV is an electronvolt so we are talking about units of energy. The most common unit of energy we deal with in our daily life is a Calorie (note, that it is a Calorie with a capital C, meaning a kilo-calorie).  Is there a way to convert our 7 TeV to Calories?  Sure.

So how many electronvolts do we have?  Well, the T tells is that we are dealing with teraelectonvolts.  The Tera SI prefix means that we multiply the number of electron volts by 1×10^12 or 1,000,000,000,000.  So, we are dealing with 7,000,000,000,000 electronvolts.  Wow.

Next up, let’s figure out how many eV are in a calorie (1/1000 of a food Calorie).  According to WolframAlpha, there are 3.829294×10^-20 eV in a calorie.  Uh oh.  This is going to be a small number.

So how what is 7 TeV in SI calories?  That works out to be 2.680506×10^-7.  And that is 1000th the size of a food Calorie.  This is getting way too smal to visualize.  Even a TicTac will have way more energy than the Large Hadron Collider.

It turns out that the LHC, running at full energy levels, will be operating with about the same amount of energy that 7 flying mosquitos have (in kinetic energy). 

And people were worried about this machine destroying the world 🙂

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