The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson — the so-called “God particle” — is being brought up to speed in time for this month’s 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN.
Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe.
The huge particle accelerator, located in a 27-kilometer-long tunnel, 100 meters underground, near Geneva, Switzerland, has never run at full power.
Even so, before its breakdown two years ago, scientists were able to detect evidence of the Higgs boson, an elusive particle whose existence proved the validity of what’s called the “Standard Model” — a theory that explains much about the origins of the universe.
But there’s a lot more to discover, says CERN researcher Despina Hatzifotiadou.
“These collisions produce a whole load of new particles, and by studying these particles, we can deduce what happened in the very beginning of the collision and thus imagine what happened in the beginning of the universe,” she said.
To work at full power, the collider’s electromagnets must be cooled to a temperature near absolute zero — a process which will take several months.
So, beginning next year, the magnets will be able to accelerate tiny clouds of subatomic particles close to the speed of light, smashing them with the energy of 14 trillion electron-volts.
Researcher Sudarshan Paramesvaran says that will allow scientists to test new theories.
“One of these theories is supersymmetry and this predicts a whole new range of particles to look for at quite high mass, and so the extended energy that we’ll get from the LHC will hopefully enable us to look for these particles and hopefully find them,” he said.
All the ordinary matter around us, including stars and planets, makes up only 5 percent of the universe. Physicists hope that colliding subatomic particles at higher power than ever before may finally shed light on the so-called “dark matter” and “dark energy,” believed to permeate the rest of the space.