Two extraordinary events are underway in February in science and technology, the first in quantum physics and the other in computer security. The Large Hadron Collider at CERN will be brought back online next month to face its next challenge, to seek evidence confirming the validity of extensions to the Standard Model of physics in general, and the ominously-named ‘dark matter’, in particular.
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In 2012, the LHC helped to find evidence of the Higgs boson, the particle that is thought to explain how other particles get their mass. The discovery vindicated theoretical calculations made decades ago, and bolstered the Standard Model, the current framework of particle physics.
When the LHC fires up again this year, it will reach energies of 13 trillion electron volts, with enough current to melt 1 ton of copper. This run is expected to last until 2018.
Experiments at the collider seek to unlock clues as to how the Universe came into existence by studying fundamental particles, the building blocks of all matter, and the forces that control them.
During its next run, researchers will look for evidence of “new physics”. They will probe ‘supersymmetry’ — a theoretical concept, seek explanations for enigmatic dark matter, and look for signs of extra dimensions.
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