Up Particle Accelerator Poised to Venture into the Realm of Exotic Physics

March 11, 2015 1:40 PM

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Physicists are getting antsy. Their most highly prized tool for studying the smallest bits of nature—the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle accelerator—has been shut down since the end of 2012 for $163 million worth of upgrades. But within two months it will be back with a vengeance, colliding protons at mind-numbing energies that have never been achieved in a man-made machine. Physicists hope that these energies will be enough to produce new particles or phenomena that expose secrets the universe has thus far been unwilling to give up. In particular, the upcoming run at the LHC could yield evidence for an idea called supersymmetry, which would be upheld if extra particles and dimensions of matter show up—and which would explain many puzzling facets of the cosmos.

The largest machine on Earth, the LHC comprises an underground loop with a circumference of 27 kilometers beneath France and Switzerland. Inside the ring, first opened in 2008, protons sent off in opposite directions accelerate to near light-speed then smash head-on into one another and explode. In ...

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