The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is perhaps the most popular atom-smasher by name that made its claim to fame after superseding the Superconducting Super Collider that was intended to be built-in Texas. The LHC gives scientists a window into the first few seconds after the initial big bang by smashing particles together at near light speeds. Yet the fame the LHC has received on the world stage may be short-lived. In recent news, experts are investigating the possibility of building an atom smasher four times bigger than the LHC.
In addition to unlocking secrets of the universe, the LHC took the title in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest super collider. The LHC is a $13.25 billion underground tunnel, spans 15 miles and is located under the Swiss and French border near Geneva. The European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, announced that it is looking into the possibility of building a super collider roughly four times larger than the LHC. The next generation super collider would be similar to the LHC but have a circumference that expands roughly 40 to 55 miles.
The LHC is not a beaten, dead horse by any means. The LHC was originally constructed to seek after the long sought “Higgs Boson.” The Higgs Boson completes the Standard Model of Particle Physics. The Higgs Boson has been unwisely referred to as the God particle by the mainstream media, since it allows the structure of the universe, and ultimately us, to exist. In particular, all particles radiate fields. The Higgs particle corresponds to the Higgs field, which acts as a medium spread throughout space. Other particles interact with this medium, slow down and gain mass. After the initial big bang, massless particles shot through the universe at near light speeds. Shortly following this event, the Higgs field activated, slowing particles down and giving them their mass. The LHC has since confirmed the existence of the Higgs Boson, further vindicating the Standard Model of Particle Physics.
Particle physics has by no means met its end. After the discovery of the Higgs Boson, the LHC was temporarily shut down. The LHC is expected to continue operating in 2015, smashing particles together at even greater speeds. By running the LHC at even greater speeds, scientists can pinpoint the precise properties of the Higgs Boson. In addition, the LHC could shed light on the mysterious imbalance between matter and anti-matter. After the big bang, equal amounts of matter and anti-matter were created. When matter and anti-matter collide, they convert into pure energy. For some reason, however, the universe consists of more matter than anti-matter; and it is a good thing too or we would not be here talking about it.Furthermore, running the LHC at greater speeds can help detect dark-matter, gravitons and extra dimensions.
All this in the round, one cannot help but wonder why CERN is eager to replace the LHC with an even bigger collider. The reason being, the LHC is likely to cease functioning by 2040. According to a recent press release by CERN, scientists must look to the technology of tomorrow, today. Particle physics is in a bit of a slumber right now and a new particle accelerator may just be the cure the doctor ordered. In doing so, scientists remain at the forefront of this most exciting field by continuing to unlock secrets of the universe.
By Nathan Cranford