Is another particle accelerator monster really a good idea?

Photo Credit: View Photos - Getty Images
Photo Credit: View Photos – Getty Images

Of Popular Mechanics

  • The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) has approved the initial stages of the next large particle accelerator.

  • These plans serve as a follow-up project for the Large Hadron Collider.

  • A dissenter argues that the “accelerator race” is too costly to obtain too little result.

The governing council of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known internationally as CERN, wants to build a new, bigger than ever $ 23.6 billion particle collider. At one point, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) made headlines for a mere $ 5 billion. Is the increasing cost of these colliders worth the research scientists can do?

At least one outstanding physicist says no. Sabine Hossenfelder, theoretical physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Frankfurt, argues in American scientist that ever-larger particle collider schemes have run out of room to make significant progress. After physicists verified the existence of the Higgs boson with two experiments at the LHC in 2012, the newer colliders are measuring small dots that simply aren’t important enough to justify the cost, Hossenfelder writes.

Within CERN, the decision to start planning the new collider is an affirmation. Before the 2012 discovery, the Higgs boson was the last protruding particle of the standard model of particle physics that scientists had not been able to observe. Following the breakthrough, researchers around the world called for several different main ideas below, “as a linear electron-positron collider or one that speeds up muons.” Nature reports.

The proposed new collider has two phases. First, an incrementally better “regular” collider is planned and built. Decades later, “The first machine would be dismantled and replaced by a proton-proton destroyer. That would reach collision energies of 100 teraelectronvolts (TeV), compared to the 16 TeV of the LHC, which also collides protons and is currently the most powerful accelerator in the world. “

Most suggested tracking accelerator projects have goals for looking at the Higgs boson in more detail, but there is a secondary purpose that represents the next step. after The standard model. The more powerful the accelerator, proponents argue, the more likely it can detect evidence of dark matter.

Intuitively, this makes sense: You can see further with a more powerful telescope, and you can see smaller things with a more powerful microscope. But, Hossenfelder says, it doesn’t work that way with dark matter science, or the lack of it so far. She argues:

“[T]Here there is no reason why the particles that make up dark matter or dark energy should appear in the energy range of the new device. And that’s assuming they’re particles to begin with, for which there is [is] no evidence. Even if they are particles, in addition, highly energetic collisions may not be the best way to look for them. Particles that weakly interact with small masses, for example, are not something you look for with large colliders. “

Not that CERN has chosen the wrong research approach; Support projects and smaller experiments are always in progress along with the main event of the big colliders. What Hossenfelder is arguing for is a reallocation of an astronomical amount of research money in more of these smaller projects.

“In this situation, particle physicists should focus on developing new technologies that can return colliders at a reasonable price and avoid digging more tunnels,” Hossenfelder writes.

By trying to raise tens of billions for a single project that will take at least a decade, is CERN drowning small projects that are more likely to confirm dark matter ideas? If the goals of a new large collider are not significant and explicitly defined, Hossenfelder’s concerns could be justified.

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