The Large Hadron Collider is preparing to restart and scientists have high hopes for it. The particle accelerator was stopped in 2018 for upgrades and modernization. In April, it began to return to work, launching protons – the bare content of hydrogen atoms – along a 27-kilometer tunnel. In early July, it should start fully colliding particles, writes NY Times.
The hopes of physicists to discover something incredible are coming back. Even during the first launch, the collider was expected to help find the Higgs boson as well as shed some light on more fundamental issues. Where did the universe come from? Why does it consist of matter and not antimatter? What is the “dark matter” that fills space? What exactly is the mass of the Higgs particle?
At that time, nothing new except the Higgs boson appeared. The standard model, which does not answer the previous questions, has remained steadfast. This time, physicists hope to get more.
Among all the updates, the collider has improved giant detectors that stand at four points of collision of proton beams and analyze the “fragments” that arise as a result. Proton beams are compressed to increase the chances of particles colliding at points of intersection. However, this creates additional difficulties for detectors and computers when analyzing the many particles that fly around and which must be distinguished from each other.
“Data’s going to be coming in at a much faster rate than we’ve been used to. Where once only a couple of collisions occurred at each beam crossing, now there would be more like five. It means there’s a bigger probability of seeing the thing you are looking for,” said one researcher.
A number of experiments before this have already revealed possible cracks in the Standard Model and hinted at a broader theory of the universe. For example, it showed the rare behavior of subatomic particles – muons, which are formed after collisions and immediately decay into electrons and neutrinos, and b-quarks, which decay in different ways.
Scientists also suggest that this time they will be able to find leptoquark. This is a hypothetical particle that can help bridge the gap between two classes of already known light and heavy particles. In addition, they will try to resolve the discrepancy between the predicted and measured mass of the W-boson.
A number of anomalies observed by physicists are hints at a broader and deeper model of the universe that will explain them all. Scientists will look for a way to explore this with an updated collider.
“We are going into this run with more optimism that there could be a revolution coming. Fingers crossed,” said one researcher.