Big Bang investigators want new atom smasher
Scientists behind the European particle collider aimed at uncovering the secrets of the universe don't want to stop there. They want to build an even bigger machine with partners and funds from around the world.Updated: Jul 26, 2010 18:06 IST
Scientists behind the European particle collider aimed at uncovering the secrets of the universe don't want to stop there. They want to build an even bigger machine with partners and funds from around the world.
Plans for the next step, a euro10 billion ($12.85 billion), 50 kilometer (31 mile) tunnel called the International Linear Collider, were presented to French President Nicolas Sarkozy at a conference in Paris on Monday.
"If we are going to build an ambitious machine, then it's got to be a global machine," Barry Barish, director of the proposed collider, told the sources on Monday.
Instead of whirling atoms in giant rings, as CERN, a particle physics laboratory outside Geneva, and the smaller Tevatron at Fermilab near Chicago do, scientists want a new generation machine that will shoot them straight.
Depending on who wants to host it and how much they are willing to pay the International Linear Collider could potentially be built anywhere in the world.
Barish, a professor at the California Institute of Technology, presented proposals to host the successor to CERN's Large Hadron Collider in Japan, Russia, the US and at CERN.
He said scientists from China, India, Canada and elsewhere also will be associated with the project, which hopes to solve "one of the puzzles of why we are here."
The new machine would be a successor to the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider, which was launched with great fanfare in September 2008, but days later was sidetracked by overheating that set off a chain of problems. CERN had to undertake a $40 million program of repairs and improvements before restarting the machine in November. Since then the collider has reported a series of successes. In March it saw the first collisions of two proton beams.
Plans for the next step have long been under discussion, and scientists now need to find funding, said Guy Wormser, a leading particle physicist and one of the conference organizers. They hope the machine could be turned on in 2020 or 2025.
With the Large Hadron Collider "we made a machine which allowed us to make a big leap in understanding, a sort of enlightener, and now we study and detail things and that's the linear collider," Wormser told The Associated Press. "It's the future of our discipline."
Instead of crashing protons together, the new international collider will accelerate electrons and positrons, their antimatter equivalent, he said.
The latest results of those experiments will be presented at the International Conference on High Energy Physics, which is bringing 1,000 physicists to Paris from July 22 to 28.
The experiments of both machines are more about shaping our understanding of how the universe was created than immediate improvements to technology in our daily lives.
Scientists are attempting to simulate the moments after the big bang nearly 14 billion years ago, which they theorize was the creation of the universe.
In March, the Large Hadron Collider produced a tiny bang, the most potent force on the tiny atomic level that humans have ever created.
Two beams of protons were sent hurtling in opposite directions toward each other in a 17-mile (27 km) tunnel below the Swiss French border the coldest place in the universe at slightly above absolute zero.
CERN, or the European Organization for Nuclear Research, used powerful superconducting magnets to force the two beams to cross; two of the protons collided, producing 7 trillion electron volts. On Monday, Wormser and other leading scientists will speak about their search for the Higgs boson, a hypothetical particle often called the God particle that scientists theorize gives mass to other particles and thus to other objects and creatures in the universe.
The colliders also may help scientists see dark matter, the strange stuff that makes up more of the universe than normal matter but has not been seen on Earth.
First Published: Jul 26, 2010 17:55 IST