Big Bang investigators need bigger smasher

Scientists
behind the European particle collider aimed at uncovering the secrets of the
universe are pushing to build an even bigger machine — with money and partners
from around the world.

Instead
of whirling atoms in giant rings, as existing colliders in Switzerland and the
United States do, scientists want a new-generation machine that will shoot them
straight.

Particle
physicists gathering in Paris for the most important conference in their field
say a linear atom blaster is needed to complement what existing colliders are
telling scientists about the universe, inching them closer to understanding why
we are here.

Mel
Shochet, a professor at the University of Chicago, said “this is by far
the most exciting time” in his particle physics career.

Speaking
at a Paris news conference, Shochet said “exciting new phenomena”
would be seen first by existing colliders “and then followed up in great
detail” by future machines, he said at a Paris press conference.

Depending
on who wants to host it — and how much they are willing to pay — the
next-generation collider could potentially be built anywhere in the world —
with Japan, Russia, the U.S. and Switzerland all possible hosts for the most
advanced project.

Scientists
are fortified by the results of the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider run by
CERN, a particle physics laboratory outside Geneva. A smaller collider called
Tevatron is run by Fermilab near Chicago. Both are highly complex machines that
took years to bring to fruition.

Rolf
Heuer, head of CERN, said he is “pretty happy” about what scientists
have so far discovered in Switzerland.

“This
is a dark universe” into which the machine “will shed the first
light,” he said.

It
will be the “interplay and combination of results” between the two
different types of atom smashers that allow high-energy physics to advance, he
said.

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