back to article CERN outlines plan for new 100km circumference supercollider

CERN boffins have started to imagine their next generation of atom-smashers, floating “an exploratory study for a future long-term project centred on a new-generation circular collider with a circumference of 80 to 100 kilometres.” CERN's current toy, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), boasts a circumference of 27 kilometres and …

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Trollface

Oh no!

This one will create a black hole for sure.

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Re: Oh no!

"This one will create a black hole for sure."

Only for finances.

For science, it'll be illuminating.

As well as for anyone witnessing a collision personally. ;)

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Headmaster

Re: Oh no!

Or maybe not.

To all available evidence, we have got all the particles down pat, there is bugger all up to the Planck scale, Stringers can go shove it, and the way forward is currently in precision measurements on neutrinos and muons. That and some hard-as-nails work in continuous group theory.

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More like Oh no...oh Shit!

Indeed Oh no!

The theory of supernovae is unproven, just another theory, therefore I hereby propose my own theory of supernovae as being the next bunch of intelligent, curious, alien scientists trying to track down their translation of Higgs-Bosson, not quite getting there, then building an even bigger particle accelerator, then "oh shit" shortly followed by a colossal inter-galactic KER-BANG!!!

As they saying goes, curiosity killed the cat :) No wonder we haven't found evidence of aliens yet, may be they all wiped themselves out as they got too smart-arsed for their own good.

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Re: Oh no!

"To all available evidence, we have got all the particles down pat, there is bugger all up to the Planck scale"

That seems to me to be the real problem here. For every previous request for a new accelerator there has been a fairly plausible case that it will see new physics. By fairly plausible, I mean there is confirmed, existing, old physics that demands the existence of some new physics in the target energy range for it all to make sense. As far as I know, that's not the case this time.

"Stringers can go shove it."

Or, paraphrasing, these theories *may* be correct, but there are no existing observations that require the effects of supersymmetry or string theory to start being visible at energies of "just a little bit more than last time". Give that these new effects have roughly 20 orders or magnitude to hide in between LHC and the Planck scale, and even with unlimited cash we (*) couldn't hope to probe more than half a dozen of those, perhaps it is time to stop the accelerator game and find more subtle experiments.

(* We can't, but of course Mother Nature has access to considerably more violent machinery than we do, so if you have several billion to spend then the cosmologists are more likely to make the observations you are looking for.)

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Plenty of room down there

"To all available evidence, we have got all the particles down pat"

No! We have the standard model particle zoo caught and stuck on the wall. What we don't have are supersymmetric particles, which are likely going to need something bigger than the LHC eventually (only a few -ino particles are predicted to come into the range even the enhanced LHC can see), and besides that, we want to BREAK the dang standard model if at all possible, because it has to break at least a little to unify to gravity.

The proposed accellerator is likely too small, but as big as political realities allow even for discussion right now. It may also be that it has to be this big - too big a step up and you don't have anything energetic enough to run through it. CERN is a wonderful set of accellerators, some half a century old, that gradually speed up incoming particles for injection into the LHC.

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Is the overlap of the rings part of the plan?

Will they have a track junction and a marshalling yard for particles?

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Re: Is the overlap of the rings part of the plan?

Not only overlap, but it looks like it will go either under or through Lake Geneva. Additional cooling perhaps? Or maybe like golf, a water hazard?

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Re: Is the overlap of the rings part of the plan?

oh noes. if they cross teh streamz that would be bad

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Re: Is the overlap of the rings part of the plan?

under or through Lake Geneva

Rapid beam dump, a large plug with a chain labelled "For emergency use only" ?

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Re: Is the overlap of the rings part of the plan?

The current LHC uses a smaller ring to pre-accellerate the particles before they are injected into the main LHC ring (search for "LHC map" for the layout, including "track junctions"). So I guess that the existing LHC tunnels will indeed be reused as the first stage of the possible new system.

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Re: Is the overlap of the rings part of the plan?

Almost certainly. Pretty much all synchrotrons at CERN that are cutting edge are later used to feed into the next generation. The energy of the particles is built up in stages, starting from a simple bottle of hydrogen gas at the very beginning. You can see the current accelerator chain here. Some of the accelerators that now feed the LHC date back to the 1950s. The Proton Synchrotron, for instance, was cutting edge in 1959.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cern-accelerator-complex.svg

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JLH

Re: Is the overlap of the rings part of the plan?

Well yes, you do have track junctions and marshalling yards.

CERN has an accelerator complex - the older, lower energy accelerators produce the original particles, which are then injected into the larger rings. So yup, you have a points system like a railway.

The SPS began operation in 1976 and is still used as the injector for LHC.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Proton_Synchrotron

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Re: Is the overlap of the rings part of the plan?

It is part of the plan - the LHC will inject particles into the new accellerator. That's the way CERN does things, and it's pretty cool. IIRC, the LHC is the fourth or fifth accellerator in the chain.

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Is that really the best place to build these things?

I'm not a physicist or an engineer, and no doubt these people know exactly what they're doing, but even experts have sometimes overlooked things.

At the levels of precision these colliders are operating, I'd have thought that building them in the Alps might introduce anomalies and gravitational distortions from having all those mountains scattered about the place. Granted, the gravity of a mountain is miniscule against the gravity of the Earth, but when you're trying to track the path of an unknown particle that might be affected by even a billionth of a g it might make enough difference to skew an expected result. To which end, wouldn't they be better off building it somewhere flat (like the Australian outback for example) to minimise possible distortion effects caused by rugged and uneven terrain?

Not to mention which, the Alps lie along a major tectonic fault line. Crustal compression is going to distort a ring on that scale over time, which is another reason building it in a more geologically stable area, like on top of a craton, might be a good idea.

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Re: Is that really the best place to build these things?

I was initially thinking of the moon, but I think you're right.

Mars would be perfect. Only a few gravitational anomalies to work around.

Then again, a Jovian linear collider would be workable, in the flux pipe between Io and Jupiter.

Think big or go home in science!

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Re: Is that really the best place to build these things? ST:TWOK

Bones: Dear Lord... What if this thing were used where life already EXISTS?

Spock: It would PRECLUDE such life in favor of its new matrix.

Bones: Its "New Matrix"?

...

Chekov: DAMN! Sensors picked up a minor energy flux on the dyno scanner...

Terrrell: Maybe it's something we can transplant...

-----

Marcus: "Something we can "transplant? Something We can "transplant"? Look you boys have got to be preCISE on this...

Terrell: Don't worry, Doctor...

(hahahaha)

............

Khanh: I've don't need to kill you, Kirk. I've left you maROONED, at the center of a dead PLANET, Buried Alive... BURIED ALYVE, BURRRIED ALYYYVE....

Shatner, via Priceline: CERNNNNN! CERNNNN!!! CERNNNNNN!!!!!

Hahaha... This thing will run rings around any life forms not transplanted

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Re: Is that really the best place to build these things?

As an Aussie, I vote for Westralia - nice big craton over there. That said, you'd want to avoid building it any place that even smelled a bit like mineral wealth as you'd very certainly get your black hole then.

As for the Alps, perhaps the mountains actually are a benefits, blocking out some cosmic rays?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Is that really the best place to build these things?

Mars would be perfect. Only a few gravitational anomalies to work around.

Then again, a Jovian linear collider would be workable, in the flux pipe between Io and Jupiter.

Maybe just speed up some rings around Saturn?

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Coat

Re: Is that really the best place to build these things?

My apartment is inside that ring, so I would much prefer that they move it to Australia.....ie as far away as possible....

If things went wrong, no-one would miss the Aussies anyway..... Suggestions required for an antipodean icon, possibly an upside down picture of Darwin ( Charles not the city), it could then be usefull for a multitude of comments.

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Thumb Up

Re: Is that really the best place to build these things?

@Steven Roper - "To which end, wouldn't they be better off building it somewhere flat (like the Australian outback for example)"

Not only would those affects be minimised but if they putting it somewhere flat and uninhabited (like Australia) they wouldn't have to dig at all would they? Just lay the ring on the ground - that would be an awful lot cheaper.

If they need some earthly protection above the tube then they could cover it with spoil from a local mining operation (which is vast in Oz I beleive). Either way it would be a hell of a lot cheaper and simpler to lay a ring on the ground and cover it than drilling down 100m under France and Switzerland.

Doesn't the EU already have observatories and space vehicle launching sites outside of the EU? If so, then why couldn't they also build their collider outside.

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Joke

Re: Is that really the best place to build these things?

Mars would be perfect. Only a few gravitational anomalies to work around.

Then again, a Jovian linear collider would be workable, in the flux pipe between Io and Jupiter.

The cost would be astronomical.

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Re: Is that really the best place to build these things?

anomalies and gravitational distortions

They have bigger problems with trains. A pre-LHC system at CERN used to display regular but slight variations that no-one could explain, until one day they stopped. Some bright spark realised that there was a train strike in France, and the the cause of the disturbances was the magnetic field created by the earth return currents from the passing 6MW TGV power sets.

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Joke

Re: Is that really the best place to build these things?

"The cost would be astronomical." - Exactly, and this procrastination with small incremental builds is equally wasteful. Which is why I propose we bend a big tube around the equator and be done with it once and for all...!

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Headmaster

Re: Is that really the best place to build these things?

Yes, I'm afraid you are really fumbling in the dark on this one ;-)

1) The protons in the LHC are sent around the ring in discrete bunches of about 10^10 particles, and actively guided and focused around the circuit by a series of dipole, quadrupole and sextupole magnets. If the ring gets "distorted" over time by geological movement, it doesn't matter - the circle isn't perfect anyway. Heck, it's not even flat - the side nearer the Jura mountains is lower than the other side of the ring. Pretty much all distortions to the ring require real-time magnet adjustments, and even the previous experiment that shared the same tunnel (LEP) could detect the distortions made by the orbit of the moon around the earth, and even the weight of snow + water on the Jura mountains as the seasons passed. The Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) in Hamburg can even easily detect the "Cultural Noise" of the working week, and how then energy of busy humans in the city above becomes less from Monday to Friday as people get more tired through the week. The relevant plot is here: http://i.imgur.com/WGP661R.png and there is more at http://vibration.desy.de/

2) The effects mentioned in 1) are all important when the particles are circulating for long periods of time (hours) in the storage ring; however these effects are unimportant within the detector volume where particles are only spending a few nanoseconds before either decaying, stopping, or escaping. Gravity really doesn't come into play within the detector volume - if it did, we'd have probably observed the graviton by now, which we haven't. These particles are moving just shy of light speed, and the gravitational differences caused by the odd mountain whilst tracking the particles through the detector volume (about the size of a large 6 story building) are just super-negligible. Errors are more likely to be dominated by the accuracy/calibration/alignment of the various detector components, and the ability to accurately determine the location of the bunch crossing within the detector - figuring out where two bunches of particles moving at light speed actually "meet" is not trivial.

3) Australia, etc, might be great in many ways, but it's *really* inaccessible. Given the thousands of people involved in these experiments, it's not really very practical to put an experiment in the middle of nowhere. Astrophysics suffers this problem with some of their crazier experiments, which really do need square-kilometers of surface detectors.

Anyway, I hope that brief taster helps you to understand just how much physicists think about these things, and how much they have already learnt from the experience of running these incredibly large-scale experiments :-)

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Re: Is that really the best place to build these things?

Tidal stresses induced by the moon can already be measured on the LHC track. These are far bigger than anything produced by tectonic movement (the alps are fairly stable), or by the mountains (which are stationary and therefore able to be mapped out of results)

Yes, there are probably better locations but the infrastructure is in place there and most other suitable places have issues with accessability, power, or politics.

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Boffin

Re: Is that really the best place to build these things?

Thanks, Fraz, for that detailed run-through ! May I point out, however, that in cases like these, the pedantic grammar-nazi ikon is hardly appropriate ; from your vantage point there at CERN, you should rather have chosen «May contain highly technical content ...», an example of which I've appended hereto.... ;-)

Henri

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JLH

Re: Is that really the best place to build these things?

"At the levels of precision these colliders are operating, I'd have thought that building them in the Alps might introduce anomalies and gravitational distortions"

Well - the LEP accelerator was so finely instrumented that it detected earth tides for the first time.

There was a small chaneg in the beam tuning noticed twice a day.

Investigations showed this was due to earth tides - like ocean tides, but the earth is moved (*)

(*) Yeah, yeah. Particle physicists make the earth move!

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Headmaster

Re: Is that really the best place to build these things?

"Not only would those affects be minimised"

EEEEEEEEffects!!!!!

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Ah yesss...

MORE POWER, IGOR!

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Mushroom

Re: Ah yesss...

"MORE POWER, IGOR!"

Modern translation:

"I think it is time we demonstrated the full power of this station."

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Anonymous Coward

How much?

So the LHC cost $4-10BN (depending on who you believe) that means that this would probably be $16-40BN * inflation, at some point, enough is really enough.

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Re: How much?

Sounds like you assume that the price tag scales linearly with radius. Why? I would expect at least R^2, but probably worse.

On top of that, if memory serves, LHC saved a lot of money by reusing the tunnels and much of the infrastructure of the earlier Large Electron-Positron Collider (LEP). It looks like digging the 100km ring will be a major expense.

At this point I suppose people are mostly waving hands rather than spending real money. The article mentions a 5 year long "feasibility study". That is an expense humanity can afford, I hope. And the intellectual exercise may well yield fruit by itself, too.

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Re: How much?

Yeah, what has CERN ever done for us!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How much?

But that $40BN won't just evaporate, it will be spent, in Europe, and like any spending it will create jobs, both low-tech with spades, and high-tech with particle detectors. At the end of the day we get it all back again.

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Re: How much?

Well, just slice something off government departments that do not really benefit mankind:

World wide military spending $1.7tn

NSA estimated $10.8 billion

USA armed forces 2011 $664.84 billion

GCHQ, MI5 & MI6 £1.9bn

Note that the above are annual budgets, a new collider would only be paid for once.

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Re: How much?

"At the end of the day we get it all back again."

Thanks for the economics lesson, but Keynes don't work that way. You can't just keep breaking everyone's windows, spending money on repairing them and expecting the world to recoup all of the money at the end of the day; some of it will be wasted.

I don't believe that $40bn or even $100bn on CERN would be a waste by the way, I'm just arguing with your basic economic premise.

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Re: How much?

>You can't just keep breaking everyone's windows, spending money on repairing them and expecting the world to recoup all of the money at the end of the day; some of it will be wasted.

The money is never wasted. The glass, on the other hand...

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Big jump up?

I vaguely recall from reading that to get from where we are atom-smasher-wise to an energy level that would reveal new stuff would be pretty big, certainly much bigger than the plan being envisioned. If that's actually the case, it would mean this plan is really just featherbedding for the CERN blokes.

Is that the case? I admit my memory about this is a bit hazy...

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Boffin maths

"...some time in the 2020s CERN would really like to be playing with a 100 TeV collider..."

So, 2029 at the latest

"...CERN boffins think that in about 25 years from now we'll need an even bigger collider to test theories based on LHC data..."

I make that about 2039.

Prepare to be disappointed, chaps.

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Re: Boffin maths In 25 years... Bad Boys Blue Will Be singing

"In a Hundred Years, CERN is illll leeee gulll... All yor dreems will dye... A hundred years CERN is illegul, and you hope will NOT SURvive... Bee You Ess TT, Our BIG Blue planet is GOo-nnn-oonnne. Can you hear my heart is screamin?!"

In 100 years, CERN will propose a Levitated Physical Equator (LPE) ... Finally, Earth will have its very own coaxial, contrarotating gravi/magneton belt.

Now, and by then, it'll certainly be SUPER at something: Super COLLECtor, hahahaha. Every country that wants to be considered a respectable country will print money to be a recognized signator of the LPE.

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Re: Boffin maths In 25 years... Bad Boys Blue Will Be singing

that's some modern talking you're doing there

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Coat

Re: Boffin maths

"Prepare to be disappointed, chaps."

Oh, come on. You don't expect those people to be au fait with ordinary mortal numbers do you?

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New Toy

No Sern you have only just been given a new toy. Play with that. We are not going to buy you a new one now.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: We are not going to buy you a new one now.

They don't want a new toy now. They're planning for a new one later, after this one is all worn out and like a silly baby toy. Soon, they'll be big scientists and need proper big-scientist toys. One day, they'll even need grown-up scientist accelerators - and just wait until you see the costings for those!

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Unlikely.

I much doubt that the EU will be willing to shell out 50 - 100 billion for a new collider. It'd be money better spent than the ISS, but that's not saying much, and nonetheless money which is needed and even better spent elsewhere.

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Re: Unlikely.

> I much doubt that the EU will be willing to shell out 50 - 100 billion for a new collider.

If the plan were amended to be a ring connecting Brussels to Strasbourg and incorporated a high-speed train solely for the use of EU officials then I'm sure the money would be found.

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Mushroom

Re: Unlikely.

Can MEPs and Eurocrats be accelerated to close to the speed of light and then crashed into each other? Sounds useful to me.

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Happy

Re: Unlikely.

IanRS,

Could be, could be. Let's do the calculations:

e = mc2

Where: e = expenses; And mc = an after-dinner speaker who's eaten so many banquets, and drunk so much port, that his original weight has been multiplied by itself - and he's now pretty much cube shaped.

So what we can see is that for every year in office, the energy costs of accelerating our eurocrats to near the speed of light are multiplied by themselves - according to a ratio of how many banquets they have spoken at. With 700 Euro MPs, plus 30-odd commissioners (both numbers expanding), the energy required to do this is growing exponentially.

Worse, as you accelerate them towards the speed of light - their expenses approach infinity.

I suspect the CERN scientists would be better approaching this from the other direction. They could use their collider portal to another dimension to summon foul creatures - and use them to rob banks / blackmail a bigger budget out of the Commission. Or they could put an accountant in the radiation backscatter from one of their eldrich machines and get him to create the Special Theory of Disaster Area Accounting - where he proves that spacetime isn't merely curved, but bent. And siphon all the expenses payments into their budget...

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Anonymous Coward

Why not space?

If you put a ring of satellites in orbit you can have thousands of km circumference, and the vacuum is already handled for you.

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