Skip to main content

hossenfelder_FABRICE COFFRINIAFPGetty Images_large hadron collider Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

We Don’t Need a Bigger Particle Collider

Physics has changed, but the methods of particle physicists have not: they still rely on serendipitous discoveries. That works when exploratory experiments are diverse and numerous. But when new experiments cost billions of dollars and take decades to prepare and conduct, it is far from the best approach.

FRANKFURT – Between Lake Geneva and the Swiss Jura, more than 100 meters (328 feet) below the surface, lies a circular tunnel, 27 kilometers (17 miles) in circumference, containing superconducting magnets that accelerate protons almost to the speed of light. At four locations in the tunnel, the protons are made to collide. Particle physicists observe these collisions, in an effort to learn what matter is made of and what holds it together.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), operated by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), is the largest particle collider ever built and was the source of grand hopes when it was launched in 2008. Some predicted it would find the particles that comprise “dark matter,” which astrophysicists believe constitutes 85% of all matter in the universe. Others expected the LHC to deliver evidence of new natural symmetries or additional dimensions of space, or to help explain “dark energy” (which supposedly causes the observed accelerated expansion of the universe).

None of this has happened. The LHC did enable the discovery of one new elementary particle, the Higgs boson – the last missing particle predicted (in the 1960s) in the Standard Model of particle physics. But that was in 2012, and no new particles have been found since. Would building another, larger collider change that?

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/sKLSTTf;
  1. reinhart39_ Sha HantingChina News ServiceVisual China Group via Getty Images_jerome powell Sha Hanting/China News Service/Visual China Group via Getty Images

    Jerome Powell’s Dilemma

    Carmen M. Reinhart & Vincent Reinhart

    There is a reason that the US Federal Reserve chair often has a haunted look. Probably to his deep and never-to-be-expressed frustration, the Fed is setting monetary policy in a way that increases the likelihood that President Donald Trump will be reelected next year.

    2
  2. mallochbrown10_ANDREW MILLIGANAFPGetty Images_boris johnson cow Andrew Milligan/AFP/Getty Images

    Brexit House of Cards

    Mark Malloch-Brown

    Following British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's suspension of Parliament, and an appeals court ruling declaring that act unlawful, the United Kingdom finds itself in a state of political frenzy. With rational decision-making having become all but impossible, any new political agreement that emerges is likely to be both temporary and deeply flawed.

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions