Scientists hope that a modernized atomic breaker can unravel the mysteries of the universe

Faster, better, stronger.

A new phase of operations on the Large Hadron Collider – the world’s largest particle accelerator – is scheduled to begin in a few weeks, just a day after the 10th anniversary of its greatest achievement to date: the discovery of the long-sought Higgs boson.

The reopening of the collider (closed since 2018) is an important event for world science, as what is generally considered one of the greatest scientific experiments ever conducted has already helped reveal important details about the structure of reality. .

Higgs’ discovery in July 2012 confirmed the Standard Model of Particle Physics, which is still in force as the best explanation of how matter works. But scientists hope that the recent launch of the LHC will explain even greater mysteries of existence – including the invisible particles that make up dark matter, and why there is anything here.

“We’re ready for Run 3,” said Rende Sterenberg, who directs beam operations for CERN, the international organization that runs the LHC, a huge hidden ring of tunnels and detector caves built deep underground in fields, trees and cities on the border. France and Switzerland with a length of over 5 miles and more than 16 miles around.

The LHC has been inactive for more than three years as it has been upgraded with tens of millions of dollars in upgrades – the upgraded facility will deliver up to 13.6 trillion electron volts (TeV) compared to just 13 TeV in the previous cycle – and advanced detection equipment to better study the chaotic explosions inside the giant atomic breaker. It is now being tested at low power and the first experimental collisions since the third launch will begin on July 5th.

The LHC uses giant magnets to accelerate proton beams and atomic nuclei in opposite directions around the underground ring and then assembles them together for a series of high-energy collisions at speeds close to light. This achieves energies that were not seen in the first few seconds of the universe after the Big Bang.

Studying the remnants of such collisions can tell scientists which particles have formed in them, even for a fraction of a second. Scientists predict that the thousands of collisions that occur at the LHC every hour will produce at least some of the exotic particles they are looking for.

Steerenberg explained that the last upgrade of the LHC is half a step before better detection methods are installed after 2027, when the LHC will operate at full capacity like the high-brightness LHC – its fourth and final incarnation before an even bigger one. Particle Accelerator, the future Circular Collider, comes online after 2040

The LHC is a crucial tool for physicists. Several unresolved issues remain in theories designed to explain physical reality – some dating back to the early 20th century – and scientists are proposing different ideas on how it all fits together. Some of these ideas work on paper, but require the existence of certain particles with certain qualities.

The LHC is the most advanced particle accelerator ever created and is designed to search for and measure these particles. The results are included in the Standard Model, which describes all known particles (there are currently 31, including the Higgs boson) and three of the four known fundamental forces: electromagnetic force, strong nuclear force, and weak nuclear force, but not gravity.

In addition to allowing even more accurate measurements of the particles that make up all the matter we see, scientists believe the modernized LHC could help resolve several anomalies in the Standard Model that were recently reported.

One of the most puzzling is the mismatch in the decay of the B-meson, a transition particle made up of two types of quarks – subatomic particles that make up protons and neutrons.

According to the theory, B-mesons should decay into electrons and muons – a related class of subatomic particles – with equal rarity. But experiments show that B-mesons break down into electrons about 15 percent more often than they break down into muons, said particle physicist Chris Parks, who led the Large Hadron Collider Beauty (LHCb) experiment.

LHCb is named after the “beautiful” quark, which occupies a prominent place in the study of the differences between matter and antimatter (quarks can also be classified as “true”, “up”, “down”, “charm” or “strange”). depending on their characteristics).

Equal amounts of matter and antimatter had to be destroyed in the first moments of the Big Bang, but this obviously did not happen: instead, matter predominates and the LHCb experiment aims to understand why.

The reported anomaly in the decay of B-mesons is related to this issue, Parks said, and the new implementation of the LHC may give an idea of ​​why the anomalous decay occurs.

“There are many different measurements and it is intriguing that many of them point in the same direction,” he said. “But there is no ‘smoking gun’ – instead it is an intriguing picture that has been seen over the last few years.”

Another notable anomaly is the mass of the W-boson, a subatomic particle involved in the action of the weak nuclear force that controls certain types of radioactivity.

The standard model predicts that W-bosons have a mass of about 80,357 million electron volts, and this figure has been confirmed in several particle accelerator experiments.

But a series of precise experiments at the massive Tevatron particle accelerator at Fermilab near Chicago suggest instead that the W-boson weighs a little more than it should – and may simply point to “new physics” beyond the Standard Model.

Particle physicist Ashutosh Cotual, a professor at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, who led the Fermilab study, which reported the discrepancy earlier this year, said it could be caused by improvements to a standard model called “supersymmetry.” “For which there is so far there has been no hard evidence.

Kotval is also a researcher at the LHC and hopes that his improved performance can confirm that supersymmetry is more than an idea. “It is possible that the W-boson senses the existence of supersymmetric particles,” he said.

And if supersymmetry still turns out to be a principle of the universe, it could explain several other mysteries, such as the nature of the ghostly particles of “dark matter,” which many physicists estimate make up about three-quarters of all matter in the universe.

Although the gravity of dark matter particles explains the structure of galaxies, the particles themselves have never been seen, and physicists still cannot explain what they could be.

“If we look for indications of this particle directly in the LHC, it would be a manifestation of potential supersymmetry and at the same time a manifestation of dark matter,” Kotval said. “That’s what I insist on.”

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