Cern plans to construct a €20 billion collider in order to reveal the mysteries of the universe.
Cern officials, based in Geneva where the Large Hadron Collider is located, are moving forward with proposals for a larger particle accelerator that would be at least three times the size of the current one.
The Large Hadron Collider is a scientific facility situated beneath the Swiss-French countryside, consisting of a 27km circular tunnel. Its purpose is to collide protons and other subatomic particles at nearly the speed of light in order to simulate the environment that existed shortly after the big bang.
The largest collider in the world, known as the machine, played a crucial role in the identification of the Higgs boson in 2012. This discovery came almost 50 years after theoretical physicist Peter Higgs and his colleagues at the University of Edinburgh proposed the existence of this particle. Their achievement was recognized with the Nobel Prize in physics in the subsequent year.
However, despite the detection of the Higgs boson, the collider has not presented any notable novel scientific findings that could potentially provide insight into fundamental enigmas of the cosmos, such as the characteristics of dark matter and dark energy, the dominance of matter over antimatter, and the possible existence of hidden dimensions.
In 2019, Cern created designs for their upcoming project, the Future Circular Collider (FCC). This machine, which would cost €20bn (£17bn) to build, would have a circumference of 91km and its goal would be to collide subatomic particles at a top energy level of 100 teraelectronvolts (TeV). For comparison, the Large Hadron Collider currently reaches a maximum energy of 14TeV.
While the proposal has received backlash, Sir David King, former chief scientific adviser for the UK government, expressed concern about spending billions on the machine given the serious threats posed by the climate crisis.
During their meeting on Friday, the Cern council reviewed a feasibility study for the FCC that was conducted halfway through its timeline. If the proposed plans are approved, the organization aims to seek approval within the next five years and have the machine ready for use in the 2040s, after the LHC has finished its operations.
Fabiola Gianotti, the head of Cern, stated that if the FCC is given the go-ahead, it would be the most advanced tool for examining the laws of nature on a minuscule level and with immense energy. This would aid in tackling pressing inquiries in modern physics and deepening our comprehension of the cosmos.
Tara Shears, a professor of physics at the University of Liverpool and a member of the LHCb experiment at the Large Hadron Collider, expressed enthusiasm for the intriguing scientific potential of the project. Currently, a feasibility study is being conducted and is expected to conclude by 2025, with a decision on the most favorable course of action to be made by 2028.
“It’s an advanced machine of the future: larger, quicker, and more powerful, with the ability to uncover even more intricate aspects of the universe. It will expose properties of the Higgs and Higgs field that are inaccessible at the Large Hadron Collider, and enable us to search for dark matter and experiment with new theories of physics in unexplored territories.”
If the machine receives approval, it will be constructed in two phases. In the first stage, electrons and positrons will be collided, while in the second phase, planned for the 2070s, protons will be slammed into each other. Due to increased radiation production, the machine will need to be located twice as deep underground as the Large Hadron Collider.
According to Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy, there is no proof that the FCC will provide any insights on dark matter or dark energy. She also expressed criticism towards the suggestions.
According to her, it is highly probable that such a machine would simply improve the accuracy of certain constants in the standard model. She believes that the societal impact is not significant enough to warrant such a large investment.
I am concerned that providing funding for this experiment will result in a significant number of intelligent individuals investing their time into research that will ultimately not yield any advancements. While the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) had a valid purpose, the Future Circular Collider (FCC) does not seem to have a clear motivation. It is time for particle physicists to acknowledge that their era has passed and that quantum physics is now at the forefront.
Prof Jon Butterworth, a member of the Atlas experiment at the Large Hadron Collider and a professor of physics at University College London, said the collider was a work in progress.
He stated that this pertains to expanding our understanding of the core components of matter and the underlying forces, partly to determine their true significance.