Is Another Monster Particle Accelerator Really Such a Good Idea?
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From the popular mechanics
The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) has approved the early stages of the next major particle accelerator.
These plans serve as a follow-up to the Large Hadron Collider.
Another dissent argues that the "accelerator race" is too expensive for too few results.
The governing council of the European Nuclear Research Organization, known internationally as CERN, plans to build a brand new particle collider worth $ 23.6 billion, bigger than ever. At one time, CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) made news for just $ 5 billion. Are the rising costs of these colliders worthwhile for researchers who are able to do this?
At least one prominent physicist says no. Sabine Hossenfelder, a theoretical physicist at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, argues in Scientific American that ever larger particle collider schemes no longer have room to make significant progress. After the physicists checked the existence of the Higgs boson in 2012 with two experiments at the LHC, the newer colliders measure tiny blips that are simply not important enough to justify the costs, writes Hossenfelder.
Within CERN, the decision to start planning the new collider is a confirmation. Before the 2012 discovery, the Higgs boson was the last protruding particle from the standard model of particle physics that scientists could not observe. After the breakthrough, researchers around the world next called for various important ideas, "like a linear Eletron-Positron collider or one that would accelerate muons," reports Nature.
The proposed new collider consists of two phases. First, an incrementally better "normal" collider is planned and built. Decades later, “the first machine would be dismantled and replaced by a proton-proton destroyer. This would reach collision energies of 100 teraelectronvolt (TeV) compared to the 16 TeV of the LHC, which also collides with protons and is currently the most powerful accelerator in the world. "
Most of the proposed follow-up accelerator projects aim to closely monitor the Higgs boson. However, there is a secondary purpose, which is the next step after the standard model. Proponents argue that the stronger the accelerator, the more likely it is to recognize evidence of dark matter.
This makes sense intuitively: you can see further with a more powerful telescope, and you can see smaller things with a more powerful microscope. But, says Hossenfelder, it doesn't work with the science of dark matter or the lack of it. She argues:
“[T] here 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 presupposes that they are initially particles for which there is no evidence. Even if they are particles, high-energy collisions may not be the best way to look for them. Weakly interacting particles with tiny masses are, for example, not to be found in large colliders. "
It is not that CERN chose the wrong research focus. In addition to the marquee of the large colliders, supporting projects and smaller experiments are always in progress. What Hossenfelder argues is the redistribution of an astronomical amount of research funding in more of these smaller projects.
"In this situation, particle physicists should concentrate on developing new technologies that could bring colliders back to a reasonable price range and delay the digging of further tunnels," writes Hossenfelder.
Does CERN suffocate by trying to raise tens of billions for a single project that will last at least a decade, small projects that are more likely to confirm dark matter ideas? If the goals of a new large collider are not both significantly and explicitly defined, Hossenfelder's concerns might be justified.
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