THE most powerful particle accelerator in the world is starting its engines again this week after a long break.
After more than three years of upgrade and maintenance work, the Large Hadron Collider will start collecting data on Tuesday.
This means scientists can once again test the theories of particle physics to unravel the mysteries of the universe.
It comes ten years after the discovery of the Higgs boson, also known as the “God particle,” by researchers using the LHC.
At the time, the groundbreaking discovery was touted as one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of the past century.
So what is the significance of the particle and what does the LHC have planned for this week?
What is the Higgs boson?
The discovery of the Higgs boson – or “God Particle” – was monumental.
The particle gives mass to matter and holds together the physical fabric of the universe.
Its existence was debated for decades, and researchers finally confirmed it on July 4, 2012.
There’s still a lot more to learn about it.
The particle’s groundbreaking discovery was made at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) – the “Big Bang” atom smasher near Geneva.
It was announced exactly 10 years ago by CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.
The advances made since then in determining its properties have allowed physicists to make great strides in our understanding of the Universe.
Researchers have been able to measure the mass of the Higgs boson, a fundamental constant of nature not predicted by the Standard Model.
In addition, the mass of the Higgs boson, together with the mass of the heaviest known elementary particle, the top quark, and other parameters can determine the stability of the vacuum in the Universe.
But researchers say there are still many unanswered questions about the particle, such as: Can it interact with dark matter and reveal the nature of this mysterious form of matter?
What creates the Higgs boson’s mass and self-interaction, and whether it has twins or relatives, are other questions that still remain unanswered.
Why is Higgs’ discovery important?
Higgs’ discovery was crucial to the Standard Model – the theory that describes the web of particles, forces and interactions that make up the universe.
Without the Higgs boson, which gives matter mass and weight, there could be no Standard Model Universe.
CERN theorist Michelangelo Mangano said: “And while all the results obtained so far are consistent with the Standard Model, there is still much room for new phenomena beyond what is predicted by this theory.”
Luca Malgeri, a spokesman for CMS – one of two of the LHC’s giant detectors alongside Atlas – said: “The Higgs boson itself could indicate new phenomena, including some that could account for the dark matter in the Universe.
“Atlas and CMS are conducting many searches to examine all forms of unexpected processes involving the Higgs boson.”
Commenting on the 10th anniversary of the discovery, Fabiola Gianotti, Director General of CERN and then project leader of the Atlas experiment, said: “The discovery of the Higgs boson was a monumental milestone in particle physics.
“It marked both the end of decades of exploration and the beginning of a new era in the study of this very special particle.
“I remember with emotion the day of the announcement, a day of great joy for the global particle physics community and for all the people who have worked tirelessly over decades to make this discovery possible.”
What will the LHC find next?
Nobody can imagine what the brain boxes at CERN will discover next.
Researchers suggest that answers to some of the unanswered questions we have about Higgs could be provided by data from the LHC’s forthcoming third run (Run 3).
Answers can also be gleaned from the collider’s major upgrade, the high-luminosity LHC, from 2029 onwards.
“High-energy accelerators remain the most powerful microscopes available to us to study nature at the smallest scale and to discover the fundamental laws that govern the universe,” said Gian Giudice, head of CERN’s theory department.
After planned maintenance and upgrades, the LHC was powered back up in April and is now running at full speed, meaning proton collisions can happen again.
A new period of data collection begins on Tuesday.
The LHC will run 24/7 at record-breaking energy for almost four years, offering more precision and discovery potential than ever before.
During the experiments, scientists will study the nature of the Higgs boson with unprecedented precision and in new channels.
They will also study the properties of matter under extremes of temperature and density, looking for candidates for dark matter and other new phenomena.
Andreas Hoecker, spokesman for the Atlas collaboration, said: “We will measure the strength of Higgs boson interactions with matter and force particles with unprecedented precision, and we will continue our search for Higgs boson decays to dark matter particles as well as the Search for additional Higgs bosons.”
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https://www.thesun.ie/tech/9044760/what-higgs-boson-god-particle-cern-hadron-collider/ What Is the Higgs Boson ‘God Particle’ and What Will the Cern Hadron Collider Find Next?