The Large Hadron Collider is preparing to shut down before the next phase of its exploration into the mysteries of the universe begins.
Located in the French-Swiss countryside near Geneva, the scale of the undertaking at Cern’s particle physics laboratory is probably best illustrated by the fact that, even before engineers can descend into the LHC’s 27 kilometer tunnel, the temperature must be raised from -271 Celsius to room level.
As previously reported by The Inquisitr, the July 4, 2012 announcement by scientists that they were more or less sure they had found the theoretical Higgs Boson particle is not the only work envisioned for the gigantic atom smasher.
As Forbes notes, the $4.75 billion investment that the LHC represents is to be used for long planned explorations of dark matter, antimatter, gravity, and the possibilities of other universes and dimensions.
The Guardian quotes Pippa Wells, one of the physicist’s who works at the LHC’s 7,000-tonne Atlas detector, as saying, “We’re only a tiny way into the LHC programme, there’s a long way to go yet.” Referring to the Boson, Wells adds, “the headline discovery was just the start.”
Incredible as the discovery of the mass-conferring subatomic particle (or something very much like it) was, even more remarkable is the fact that it was accomplished on a collider running at nearly half its design speed.
This was done in order to avoid a repeat of the conditions that gave rise to a short circuit accident in 2008 that blew a hole in the LHC.
According to The Guardian, that accident is the reason why a two-year shutdown is needed to take care of outstanding repairs before the collider can literally go to the next [energy] level for its 2015 plus program.
Those repairs will enable the LHC to ramp up to its maximum energy when it’s turned back on after the shutdown. The upgrade will strengthen “weak spots” in electrical connections in the collider that were identified after the accident.
And with the new energy level, scientists are hoping new discoveries will come. Andy Parker, professor of high energy physics at the UK’s Cambridge University said:
“There could be a whole universe full of galaxies and stars and civilisations and newspapers that we didn’t know about. That would be a big deal.”