The Collider That Could Save Physics

Posted by K R on

The 2012 discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva was a spectacular vindication of the Standard Model—a framework that describes all known particles and forces in physics. The Higgs, whose existence was first predicted in the 1960s, was the final missing piece of the puzzle. Since then, however, physicists have been stuck. The so-called superpartner particles scientists hoped to find at the LHC—particles whose detection would help solve long-standing problems with the Standard Model—never appeared. Physicists have been talking for decades about a collider that could find those missing particles. Three years ago an international team of physicists and engineers finished its design. Called the International Linear Collider (ILC), this 31-kilometer-long accelerator would smash electrons and positrons together underneath the mountains of the Kitakami region in northern Japan, producing matter-antimatter annihilations that would release 250 billion electron volts of energy. (A later upgrade would double the ILC's energy output.) Any day now Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) is expected to decide whether the ILC should go forward. We believe it should. The Standard Model has a hole where a 125-billion-electron-volt Higgs boson would fit perfectly. And that is what scientists found at the LHC. The twist is that physicists cannot explain why the Higgs has that mass. (Physicists generally measure the mass of particles in electron volts, which works because energy and mass are equivalent.) In fact, they have known since the early 1980s that virtual quantum effects should make the Higgs millions or billions of times more massive. Read More: Scientific American

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