The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has been a smashing success with records broken at every stage of atom smashing activity. With so many successful missions, it is now up to the scientists to meet their ultimate goal: finding the elusive Higgs Boson, or “God” particle. The challenge becomes more important in 2012, because there are few remaining likely locations for the particle and the hunt may be close to an end.
What is next for the LHC? Finding the Higgs Boson was the reason for building and operating the LHC in the first place. The particle will either be found or scientists will have to prove that the particle does not exist. Such proof would turn a lot of generally accepted physics theory around.
Scientists are still poking through the output data and the debris of previous collisions, including those from America’s decommissioned particle accelerator. The scientists claim that they have found even more clues and hints that the Higgs Boson resides in a certain mass region.
Daily Tech suggests that “In a way LHC researchers are fearful of falling victim to their own hype.” but reminds us all that proving the Higgs Boson does not exist is also a major goal. This implies that the LHC will not be a failure if the existence nor the nonexistence of the Higgs Boson is proved.
The LHC experiments have yielded incredible finds, including the CHI (X) particle and over 175 mesons. Evidence of dark matter has also been revealed. In a February article, Daily Tech explained the dark matter situation. “Scientists think they are making progress in the hunt for the SUSY – also known as supersymmetric particle, or ‘sparticle’. Scientists believe the sparticle may be the mysterious dark matter, given its theoretical stability.”
During the winter break the LHC was recalibrated and set up to give up even more energy and data. After that, more collisions and much more plowing through data and subatomic particle debris will go on.
According to PC Magazine, the Higgs Boson is a hypothetical elementary particle. The Higgs Boson could explain the existence of any matter in the universe that has mass. The theory is that the Higgs Boson is the anchor for a Higgs field. When a mass-free fundamental particle travels through a Higgs Field, the field converts it to a particle with mass. Once that particle has mass, it gains the potential to become a building block of atoms.
Over the years of atom smashing, almost all likely locations for a Higgs Boson field have been examined, leaving limited places where it could be found. Each time the smashing goes on, immense piles of data are produced and must be scoured through for evidence that the particle exists.
Ars Technica has more details about the LHC schedule for 2012, and describes some of the problems that have been encountered or resolved. The 2012 Cern LHC schedule for 2012 is in PDF form.
In early April, scientists used a record breaking eight trillion electron volts, or eight TeV, to smash together millions of protons that they hoped would produce the elusive Higgs boson. This beat the previous energy records of 7 TeV in 2010, and was the first use of the LHC in 2012.
Most importantly, the extra energy has produced even more mounds of data than ever before, giving scientists much more to poke through as they search promising, if limited regions for the Higgs Boson.
In summary, finding or not finding the Higgs Boson is the most important task that lies ahead for the LHC and the scientists who work with its output. But there are many more mysteries of physics, matter and the stuff of the universe to solve, and the LHC’s newly calibrated and expanded atom smashing power will help.