CERN wants colossal new collider

Boss of the renowned Swiss physics lab says the Large Hadron accelerator - the world's biggest - is ultimately too small.

Large Hadron Collider Muon MarkHalper.jpg
Muving On: The inside of the muon detector at the Large Hadron Collider, taken apart for maintenance as CERN readies it and other LHC detectors for the higher energies they'll have to handle in the search for dark matter.
When you're in the business of finding tiny things like bosons, hadrons and subatomic antimatter, it seems that the bigger your tools are, the better.

Thus it is that CERN, the renowned Swiss physics lab and owner of the world's most colossal particle accelerator -- the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) - wants an even more humongous one.

CERN Director Rolf Heuer Mark Halper.jpg
Bring on the big boy: CERN director general Rolf Heuer wants a particle accelerator four times the size of the lab's Large Hadron Collider, already the world's most enormous.
With a 100-kilometer circumference, the new underground machine would be four times the size of the subterranean 27-km LHC, and would encircle all of Geneva, the BBC reported.

CERN's wish might seem a bit greedy given that the LHC itself is only about five years old. But in the BBC story, CERN director general Dr. Rolf Heuer explains: 

"We have very long lead times because our projects are ambitious, and they need a lot of research and development. Take as an example the LHC. It is just three years into full swing, but the real discussions on the LHC started in 1983; the first meeting on the physics in 1984. And the first data were taken in 2009. So we need a long lead time. And that's why we start now to kick off this project."

The new machine could come online by 2035.

At the moment, Heuer and his physicists can't play with even the LHC. It is closed for maintenance while they juice up its energy - already the highest of all the world's colliders - as they prepare it to hunt for dark matter. The LHC has been handy at spotting a number of other previously elusive rascals, such as antimatter and the Higgs Boson .

Just think what they might find under the Alps once the titanic tunnel comes on line with unparalleled energy levels. They sure seem excited about it at CERN. As the t-shirt says, particle physics gives them a hadron.

Photos are by Mark Halper

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