Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 5th 2016 Contents B11
Thursday, May 5, 2016 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Was it a blip, or a breakthrough? Scientists around
the globe are revved up with excitement as the
world s biggest atom smasher---best known for
revealing the Higgs boson four years ago---starts
whirring again to churn out data that may confirm
cautious hints of an entirely new particle.
Such a discovery would all but upend the most
basic understanding of physics, experts say.
The European Center for Nuclear Research, or
CERN by its French-language acronym, has in recent
months given more oomph to the machinery in a
27-kilometre (17-mile) underground circuit along the
French-Swiss border known as the Large Hadron
In a surprise development in December, two sep-
arate LHC detectors each turned up faint signs that
could indicate a new particle, and since then theorising
has been rife.
"It s a hint at a possible discovery," said theoretical
physicist Csaba Csaki, who isn t involved in the
experiments. "If this is really true, then it would pos-
sibly be the most exciting thing that I have seen in
particle physics in my career---more exciting than
the discovery of the Higgs itself."
After a wintertime break, the Large Hadron Collider,
Physicists abuzz about possible
new particle as CERN revs up
or LHC, reopened on March 25 to prepare for a restart
in early May. CERN scientists are doing safety tests
and scrubbing clean the pipes before slamming togeth-
er large bundles of particles in hopes of producing
enough data to clear up that mystery. Firm answers
aren t expected for weeks, if not until an August
conference of physicists in Chicago known as ICHEP.
On Friday, the LHC was temporarily immobilised
by a weasel, which invaded a transformer that helps
power the machine and set off an electrical outage.
CERN says it was one of a few small glitches that
will delay by a few days plans to start the data col-
lection at the US$4.4 billion collider.
The 2012 confirmation of the Higgs boson, dubbed
the "God particle" by some laypeople, culminated
a theory first floated decades earlier. The "Higgs"
rounded out the Standard Model of physics, which
aims to explain how the universe is structured at the
The LHC s Atlas and Compact Muon Solenoid
particle detectors in December turned up preliminary
readings that suggested a particle not accounted for
by the Standard Model might exist at 750 Giga electron
Volts. This mystery particle would be nearly four
times more massive than the top quark, the most
massive particle in the model, and six times more
massive than the Higgs, CERN officials say.
The Standard Model has worked well, but has
gaps---notably about dark matter, which is believed
to make up one-quarter of the mass of the universe.
Theorists say the December results, if confirmed,
could help elucidate that enigma; or it could signal
a graviton---a theorised first particle with gravity---
or another boson, even hint of a new dimension.
More data is needed to iron those possibilities out,
and even then, the December results could just be
a blip. But with so much still unexplained, physicists
say discoveries of new particles --- whether this year
or later---may be inevitable as colliders get more and
Dave Charlton, who heads the Atlas team, said the
December results could just be a "fluctuation" and
"in that case, really for science, there s not really any
consequence...At this point, you won t find any
experimentalist who will put any weight on this: We
are all very largely expecting it to go away again."
"But if it stays around, it s almost a new ball game,"
said Charlton, an experimental physicist at the Uni-
versity of Birmingham in Britain.
The unprecedented power of the LHC has turned
physics on its head in recent years. Whereas theorists
once predicted behaviors that experimentalists would
test in the lab, the vast energy being pumped into
CERN s collider means scientists are now seeing
results for which there isn t yet a theoretical expla-
"This particle---if it s real---it would be something
totally unexpected that tells us we re missing some-
thing interesting," he said.
Whatever happens, experimentalists and theorists
agree that 2016 promises to be exciting because of
the sheer amount of data pumped out from the high-
intensity collisions at record-high energy of 13 Tera
electron Volts, a level first reached on a smaller scale
last year, and up from 8 TeVs previously. CERN likens
1 TeV to the energy generated by a flying mosquito:
That may not sound like much, but it s being generated
at a scale a trillion times smaller.
In energy, the LHC will be nearly at full throttle---
its maximum is 14 TeV---and over 2,700 bunches of
particles will be in beams that collide at the speed
of light, which is "nearly the maximum," CERN
spokesman Arnaud Marsollier said. He said the aim
is to produce six times more collisions this year than
"When you open up the energies, you open up
possibilities to find new particles," he said. "The win-
dow that we re opening at 13 TeV is very significant.
If something exists between 8 and 13 TeV, we re going
to find it." (AP)
In this February 16, 2016 file photo a technician works in the LHC (Large Hadron
Collider) tunnel of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN, during
a press visit in Meyrin, near Geneva, Switzerland. Four years after the Higgs
boson, or "God particle," was confirmed, physicists are revved up with
excitement as CERN's collider starts spinning again. Theorists are hoping to
confirm cautious suspicions about a new particle---a discovery that could totally
upend physics. AP PHOTO
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