Many of the big mysteries we're still trying to solve about the universe are locked up inside tiny particles like protons (one example of a hadron), which are themselves made up of even tinier particles. To detect them, the LHC needs parts like this:
We believe it's called a widget.
That's a component of one of the particle detectors at the LHC. It's 5 stories tall and weighs 6 million pounds. To find the particles for that thing to detect, we have to smash up the protons. Unfortunately, this is like trying to get the cash out of an adamantium piggy bank. You have to smash them really, really hard.
So the Large Hadron Collider, as its name implies, has two main functions: Smashing protons together, and being really big. In order to get a proton up to the speed required to actually break it apart, scientists have to fire it through a circular tube 17 miles in length. This boosts the particle to an energy level of 3.5 tera-electron volts (TeV), or around the energy of a mosquito. That may not sound impressive until you realize a proton is trillions of times smaller than a mosquito, so it's really like shooting a spitball with the force of Halley's Comet.
This is the physics version of those rotating barrels you get at funfairs.
The purpose of this gargantuan machine is basically to prove the existence of particles that should exist in theory, but we've never actually seen. Stuff with really weird names, like dark matter, monopoles and Higgs bosons. Basically, it's the Mad Hatter's Tea Party of physics.
And doing that, as with all worthwhile projects, requires one giant goddamned machine.
Basically, the LHC is how science plans to find the universe's clitoris.
When Josh E wasn't doing sciency things at school, he was making the series College Daze and the cartoon series High School Daze.
For scientific badassery, check out The 6 Most Badass Stunts Ever Pulled in the Name of Science and 5 Superpowers Science Will Give Us in Our Lifetime.