Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Scientists gathered in Geneva, Switzerland last week to consider the possibility of building a particle accelerator four times the size of the current largest accelerator in the world.
The scientists met not far from CERN, which hosts the largest particle accelerator known as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). This accelerator has been made famous by its controversial discovery of the Higgs boson (God particle) a few years ago.
While LHC is still undergoing construction to make it even more powerful, scientists met up around CERN to discuss the potential of building an even more powerful machine. The reasoning for starting a new project when the other isn’t quite complete is because accelerators take a long time to build, according to CERN director general Dr. Rolf Heuer.
“We have very long lead times, because our projects are ambitious, and they need a lot of research and development,” Heuer told BBC‘s Roland Pease. “Take as an example the LHC. It is just three years into full swing, but the real discussion on the LHC started in 1983; the first meeting on the physics started in 1984. And the first data were taken in 2009. So we need a long lead time. And that’s why we start now to kick off this project.”
The proposal being visualized is for a 60-mile tunnel that would encircle Geneva, reaching out to the Alps in the east, the Jura Mountains in the west and could even go under Lake Geneva. The tunnel is just one of several proposals to be considered by the group. According to BBC, Japan and China are also wanting to host the giant collider.
Scientists are debating both the location and size of the collider, as well as what particles they want to smash. Some hope to use it to collide protons to help look at the extreme conditions during the Big Bang. However, other experts prefer electrons, which can be steered more easily and give far cleaner physics. Either way, the work that LHC has helped scientists do over the last few years is just the beginning.
“It took nearly 50 years to complete the so-called Standard Model, which just describes barely 5 percent of the Universe – the visible Universe. Fifty years for 5 percent! We still need to explore 95 percent, and this is what I would call the dark Universe,” Heuer told BBC.
“We very much hope that with the LHC running at higher energy next year, we might get the first glimpse of what dark matter is, for example. And building on that I would assume that we then can build a physics case for a future circular collider,” he concluded.