The Large Hadron Collider, the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, was back up and running Friday morning — and scientists believe it’s poised to uncover some of the biggest mysteries in the universe.
The giant atomic breaker has been silent for the past three years. During this time, scientists made some major upgrades to the LHC’s site below the Franco-Swiss border. Researchers once hoped that the 27-kilometer particle accelerator would reveal some of the biggest mysteries in science like the existence of dark matter – but beyond the important. discovery of the Higgs Bosona subatomic particle that gives mass to other particles, not much else to write home about.
That’s why researchers have upgraded the Atlas accelerator and Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) detectors — tools used to measure and analyze particles produced by the LHC. With these improvements, scientists believe it could reveal some very interesting and potentially surprising discoveries.
“It’s going to be two to three times better, in terms of the experiment’s ability to detect, collect and analyze data,” said Marcella Bona, a senior researcher in particle physics at CERN, the organization that runs the LHC. experiment, told BBC. “The entire test chain has been upgraded.”
To understand what CERN scientists hope to find, you first need to get around the Standard Model, a physical theory that explains how subatomic particles make atoms and, therefore, all matter. substances around us. The model helps explain three of the four forces in nature: the electromagnetic force and the two types of nuclear forces that hold atoms together.
However, it does not explain the fourth gravitational force, nor does it explain the theoretical, invisible matter that makes up 95% of the universe: dark matter. While researchers know that these particles exist, they have yet to prove their existence or really understand what it really is. These are the questions scientists hope the upgrades will help answer.
As well as uncovering the mysteries of dark matter, the LHC is now better prepared to see if there is Thursday The force of nature is called dark energy. Researchers believe the force may exist because of the way it affects the way the universe expands. However, like dark matter, they were unable to confirm its existence or observe it directly. Sam Harper, a physicist who studies theoretical forces using the CMS detector, hopes to eventually find some answers.
With the upgrades, the team may be about to uncover a fifth force. Harper told the BBC: “I’ve been hunting for the fifth force for as long as I’ve been a particle physicist. “Perhaps this is the year.
“This is going to change the field,” he said. “This will be the biggest discovery of the LHC.” He then added that, “it will be larger than the Higgs boson.”
The LHC can now make up for lost time in a potentially huge and game-changing way. While exciting, scientists can understandably worry about restarting operations. Rende Steerenberg, who is on the control room operations team at the LHC, speak Reuters that restarting the accelerator “is accompanied by a certain sense of tension, anxiety.” After all, what if they miss something? Or what if the upgrades aren’t enough to make the discoveries they hope to find?
However, there’s a whole universe of possibilities for you to get excited about.
“What drives all particle physicists is that we want to explore the unknown,” Harper told the BBC, “and this is why things like the fifth force and dark matter are so exciting because because we don’t know what it could be or if it exists and we really want to figure this out.”