23 Jun 2014

Higgs boson discovery ‘just the beginning’

It found the Higgs boson or “God particle”. But that was just the beginning, say scientists at Cern in Geneva, as they prepare to restart the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) – with twice as much energy.

The vast machine at the laboratory in Geneva has been almost completely rebuilt and will run with twice as much energy as last time, the team at Cern said.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will take months to restart, and scientists will only begin colliding beams and doing experiments on the machine, the largest and most powerful particle accelerator in the world, in early 2015.

But they are expecting great things.

Speaking at the EuroScience Open Forum Meeting in Copenhagen, senior CERN physicist Fabiola Gianotti said: “The discovery of a Higgs boson was just the beginning of the LHC’s journey. The increase in energy opens the door to a whole new discovery potential.”

“There is a new buzz about the laboratory and a real sense of anticipation,” added Cern Directory General Rolf Heuer. “Much work has been carried out on the LHC over the last 18 months or so, and it’s effectively a new machine, poised to set us on the path to new discoveries.”

What the Higgs?

The LHC first discovered signs of the Higgs boson, the so-called God particle, in 2011, and proved this more firmly in July 2012. The Higgs gives mass to fundamental particles and was effectively the missing link of particle physics until its discovery.

Its existence was first raised in a 1964 paper by Peter Higgs and independently by Robert Brout and Francois Englert in the same year, and the proof from the LHC won the scientists the Nobel prize last year.

When it was first announced, scientists said it could prove to be the discovery of the century. But now Cern’s top team believes there is more to come, hoping in particular to find out more about dark matter.

Physicists believe dark matter makes up most of the universe and explains how it works and holds together – but at the moment, we know so little about it that some scientists argue we cannot even comprehensively say it exists.

Perhaps the second run of the LHC could change that.