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Scientists Wednesday applauded as one of the most ambitious experiments ever conceived got successfully underway, with protons being fired around a 27-kilometer (17-mile) tunnel deep beneath the border of France and Switzerland in an attempt to unlock the secrets of the universe.

The Large Hadron Collider -- a $9 billion particle accelerator designed to simulate conditions of the Big Bang that created the physical Universe -- was switched on at 0732 GMT to cheers and applause from experts gathered to witness the event.

While observers were left nonplussed by the anticlimactic flashing dots on a TV screen that signalled the machine's successful test run, among teams of scientists involved around the world there were jubilant celebrations and popping champagne corks.

In the coming months, the collider is expected to begin smashing particles into each other by sending two beams of protons around the tunnel in opposite directions.

Skeptics, who claim that the experiment could lead to the creation of a black hole capable of swallowing the planet, failed in a legal bid to halt the project at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Read full article »

CNN's Elizabeth Landau contributed to this story

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