Large Hadron Collider: Next Generation of Science

large hadron collider

Much has been written already about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), and it appears that there is more on the horizon for the next generation of scientific advances. The massive particle accelerator began construction in 1998 and was finished in 2008, after which it functioned on and off until 2013, when it was closed to be upgraded. In its first years of operation, the LHC was instrumental in proving the existence of the Higgs boson.particle which, essentially, is the particle responsible for giving mass to most basic atoms. The discovery is significant as the Higgs bosun particle had been theorized as far back as 1964, and its existence validates many important theories in the field of physics.

With the discovery of the Higgs boson behind them, scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) are now looking ahead to even bigger goals. With upgrades underway and an expected reboot in 2015, the LHC will now be used in an attempt to uncover more information on the elusive substance known as dark matter. Dark matter is thought to make up about 84 percent of the universe and does not react to light. It is most likely composed of a not-yet-categorized subatomic particle, which is where the LHC comes in. The massive machine specializes in finding and studying sub-atomic particles and the Higgs boson discovery is proof that the scientists operating the LHC know what they are doing. The next generation Large Hadron Collider is a marvel of modern science, doubling the power of the LHC iteration that discovered the Higgs particle. With this extra power, scientists hope to learn about new subatomic particles by observing how the Higgs boson interacts with them. This is a fairly tall order considering it took four years of operation to confirm the existence of the long-theorized Higgs boson.  Before those four years of work, it took almost two decades to bring the Large Hadron Collider into its fully realized form.

Even with a seven mile-long machine accelerating particles to nearly the speed of light, progress is understandably slow. The upgrade to double the collider’s power will take at least two years. At that rate, any more significant discoveries could be several years off, but the world-class scientists of CERN have to start somewhere. Unraveling the mystery of dark matter is a pursuit worth the enormous time investment that it requires, as dark matter and dark energy could be key to many lingering mysteries in physics and other scientific fields. Technology advances exponentially and dark energy could be a key to a leap forward in technology and scientific understanding. On the other hand, dark matter and dark energy may not even exist, or at least not in the form already theorized. The same could have been said of the Higgs boson a few years ago however, so CERN’s landmark discovery is encouraging in more than one way. Aside from dark matter particles, the LHC may also lead to discoveries of subatomic particles that have not yet even been theorized. Such a discovery could lead to yet another branch of inquiry for CERN scientists to pursue. With seemingly limitless possibilities for this next generation of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, scientists continue to carry us into the future by magnificent leaps and bounds.

By Matt Isaacs

National Geographic
The Space Reporter

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