CERN

With the warmth of holiday cheer in the air, some physicists decided to hit the pub after a conference in December 2014 and do what many physicists tend to do after work: keep talking about physics. That evening’s topic of conversation: dark energy particles. The chat would lead to a new line of investigation at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Every second, the universe grows a little bigger. Scientists are using the LHC to try to find out why.

From IEEE Spectrum, Jan. 30, 2019: If realized, the Future Circular Collider will produce magnetic fields nearly twice as strong as the LHC and accelerate particles to unprecedented energies of 100 teraelectron volts, compared to the Large Hadron Collider’s energies of 13 TeV. Whereas the magnetic system at the LHC can achieve strengths of 8.3 teslas, the FCC system would be able to achieve 16 T.

Physicists often find thrifty, ingenious ways to reuse equipment and resources. What do you do about an 800-ton magnet originally used to discover new particles? Send it off on a months-long journey via truck, train and ship halfway across the world to detect oscillating particles called neutrinos, of course. It’s all part of the vast recycling network of the physics community.

For several weeks, a prototype detector for the Fermilab-hosted Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment collected data using beams from CERN’s particle accelerators. The results show a mature technology exceeding all expectations. It’s the culmination of three years of hard work by a global team dedicated to constructing and bringing the new detector online.

If you want to visit the Pasner family farm, you’ll need a truck with four-wheel drive. You’ll need to traverse 4 miles of bumpy dirt road deep into the countryside of Penn Valley, California. But once you arrive, you’ll be greeted by fields of organic onions and garlic, nestled between rolling grassy hills speckled with oak trees. For physicist Jake Pasner, this will always be home.

From The New York Times, Dec. 21, 2018: The largest machine ever built is shutting down for two years of upgrades. Take an immersive tour of the collider and study the remnants of a Higgs particle in augmented reality.

“Wait,” you may be thinking, “I thought this was a science column. What has science to do with peace?” Those who visit Fermilab or CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics in Switzerland, understand. There are today many international scientific organizations, at least partly inspired by CERN’s success.

During the last four years, LHC scientists have filled in gaps in our knowledge and tested the boundaries of the Standard Model. Since the start of Run II in March 2015, they’ve recorded an incredible amount of data —five times more than the LHC produced in Run I. The accelerator produced approximately 16 million billion proton-proton collisions — about one collision for every ant currently living on Earth.

During the short heavy-ion run at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, every moment counts. As one scientist puts it, experimenters have “four weeks to collect all the data we will use for the next three years.” The data arising from LHC’s collisions of heavy nuclei, such as lead, will be used to study the properties of a very hot and dense subatomic material called the quark-gluon plasma.