The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is about to start smashing subatomic particles together at unheard-of energy levels to reveal more of the secrets of the universe.
Ten years ago, the collider unearthed the so-called ‘God particle’, the Higgs boson.
From next Tuesday, it will start again — running for four years at an all-time-high energy of 13.6 trillion electron volts, according to the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN).
This time, scientists are hunting elusive mysteries such as dark matter and dark energy.
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The batch of LHC collisions observed at CERN between 2010-2013 brought proof of the existence of the long-sought Higgs boson particle which, along with its linked energy field, is thought to be vital to the formation of the universe after the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago.
Physicists hope the resumption of collisions will help in their quest for so-called “dark matter” that lies beyond the visible universe.
Dark matter is thought to be five times more prevalent than ordinary matter but does not absorb, reflect or emit light. Searches have so far come up empty-handed.
The experiments will also probe mysteries such as dark energy – and will use narrowed proton beams less than 10 microns across, to increase the collision rate between particles.
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CERN director-general Fabiola Gianotti said: “The Higgs boson is related to some of the most profound open questions in fundamental physics today.”
Joachim Mnich, CERN’s head of research and computing, told AFP there was still much to learn about the Higgs boson, saying “Is the Higgs boson really a fundamental particle or is it a composite?”
“Is it the only Higgs-like particle that exists – or are there others?”
Large Hadron Collider switches on again at far higher level of powerLarge Hadron Collider switches on again at far higher level of power