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“Hello world: We’re back,” a tweet sent on April 22, 2022, from Federico Ronchetti, the head of operations at CERN for the ALICE Experiment.
After being shut down for three years, the large hadron collider (LHC) has been turned back on and is ready to probe the fundamental nature of reality again.
The LHC is the world’s most influential and largest particle collider, which is found at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), which is close to Geneva, Switzerland. It has been turned back on after being shut down for repairs, maintenance, and upgrades.
The particle collider also referred to as the “atom smasher,” is a 27-kilometre circle of magnets that guides a beam of charged particles that almost reaches the speed of light, provoking them to collide at four different crossing points.
The collisions are observed by detectors that allow researchers to study them and get insights into the physics of the particles. As a result, the LHC has found fascinating discoveries about the fundamental of physics and how matter is made up in the universe.
Now that the LHC is back on, scientists can resume their research to try and answer the basic questions about how these particles interact in space.
As of April 22, 2022, two proton beams had started circulating in opposite directions around the device, CERN tweeted.
“Today is a special day,” announced Rende Steerenberg, the head of the CERN beams department, reported in a promotional video. “The three-year shutdown was due to upgrading the machine, upgrading the injectors, and creating brighter beams for the number of collisions in the LHC to be increased.”
Researchers are reasonably excited. On April 22, 2022, Dr. Sam Harper, one of the physicists at CERN, explained to the BBC that the LHC’s upgrading would allow him to be searching for the “fifth force of nature” (electromagnetism, external gravitation, etc. and the weak and strong nuclear force).
Similarly, Dr. Mitesh Patel, who is a particle physicist for the Imperial College London whose research solely depends on the LHC, said to The Guardian he now has “much more optimism” for his hunt to try and explain the quick decay of particles named beauty quarks, which is a type of particle that is smaller than neutrons, protons, and atoms.
“There may be a revolution coming,” Patel said.
The LHC reopens as ongoing criticisms say it has come up short of its goals in trying to explain the unexplainable. For example, it was first turned in 2008 to look for the Higgs boson, a particle first proposed in 1964 to try and explain why particles have mass.
The collider successfully located the Higgs Boson in 2012, completing the Standard Model of Particle Physics, which is the theory of subatomic physics.
The location of the Higgs Boson came through theories about a new type of particle called “supersymmetric” particles, which constitute dark matter — particles in space that do not emit, absorb, or reflect light.
The LHC has not yet found a trace of these particles but restarting it may change all of that.