"Deep Thought"? - Beyond the Large Hadron Collider
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November 23, 2009

"Deep Thought"? - Beyond the Large Hadron Collider

Lhc1 Some scientists are already looking beyond the Large Hadron Collider and onto the next generation of ultimega-atom-smasher.  That's because scientists actually plan things and can concentrate for longer than four seconds, unlike the mass media which reports on them.  One potential particle pulverising system is a muon collider: the latest concept in the cutting edge that parts particles.


It might seems spoiled to be calling for another multimillion dollar megacollider when the latest one hasn't even started, but the LHC is no Deep Thought: they aren't going to turn it on and have the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything (eventually) tumble out.  Whatever the results of the proton-pounding experiments underneath the Franco-Swiss border there are whole swathes of the high-energy particle spectrum still out of reach - and which we want to look at next will be determined by the LHC.

The muon collider concept combines exciting potential with challenging problems.  Muons are only a ninth of the mass of protons and so can be accelerated to higher energies with current hardware (in fact, because they're made of fewer subatomic bits they can reach higher effective energies even with less powerful equipment).  They're two hundred times heavier than electrons, but because they're less prone to radiate away energy via synchrotron radiation when being bent around curves by magnetic fields, they can be kept in rings at energy levels where electrons would require vast linear accelerators.


The challenges are just as cool: a muon's stable lifetime is only two point two microseconds, and when faced with the problem "they only hang around for a couple millionths of a second" the designers said "let's just accelerate them to close to the speed of light" - that way they hang around long enough (in our frame) due to relativistic time dilation.  If that sounds improbable, it's already happened to you a bunch of times while reading this sentence: muons created by cosmic ray impacts classically couldn't survive long enough to reach the surface, it's only time dilation extending their life from our reference frame that lets them stream into the surface of the Earth, bubble chambers, and your body right now.


There are still extraordinarily significant challenges to overcome: how do you streams muons into the accelerator from the reactions that cause them, who wants to pay for something this big, and will they be able to overcome other accelerator strategies to get that funding?  Only time, and awesome science, will tell.


Luke McKinney


Muon Accelerator http://www.nature.com.myaccess.library.utoronto.ca/news/2009/091118/full/462260a.html

Comments

Let's hope this accelerator doesn't create a black hole as some scientists fear.

It appears a waste of huge sums of money in this troubled world full of problems that may be solved through better use of money available. Nothing in the universe can be produced unless the same existed at some stage of the evolution of this very universe. To my mind, the early part of the Universe, closest to the Big Bang holds all such secrets. We need to do cosmological experiments away from the Earth's background to search for these mysteries. But we may need better precision and accuracy and accordingly better sensers as devices deeper in space.Hope scientists will think in such alternate means of study, instead of building huge accelerators that guzzles electricity in creating ultra high vaccuum in miles long accelerating tubes. Such things are bound to get involved in maintenance/repair problems in a perpetual manner.

How can a reader of this website think an accelerator could produce a harmful black hole? Don't worry, it can't.

[Rant] Persuit of Science is never a "waste of money" and it rattles me dearly when people state such. If people really wish to see wastes of money, they can look at the political lobbying that occurs on a day to day basis, or the amount of money people spend on tabloids or the amount of BS sold to the layman every day...
I can go on and on about true "wastes of money" until everyone's ears begin to bleed.

[/rant]

However, I will leave it at this: whether it costs 1 dollar or 100 billion, if society as a whole learns and grows because of it then it is not a waste.

It wasn't long ago that many people believed that persuits into green tech was a "waste of money"...

ShadowDs:

I think in most of our cases, you are preaching to the crowd. People that deliberately pit funding for social programs against science & space programs are people who I have marginal sympathy for.

Anything that helps society, even on a quantum level, isn't a waste of money. This includes the LHC, the Muon collider, the ISS & its successors in the US & International space program, & stem cell research ( Which no longer " kills babies " )

As far as " wastes of money ", I count movies like " 2012 " which promote idiotic pseudo - science with no basis in fact, & books & articles about the Face on Mars, Pyramids of Mars, & the 12th planet, & journals that pander to extra - terrestrial abduction junkies.

That's MY rant, & I'm sticking by it..... !!!

i note some sharp comments on LHC as a colossal giant and money guzzler that is hardly expected to deliver anything new, except different phases of already known particles. The cheaper alternative is to do cosmological experiments with precision closer to the Big Bang. They will reproduce what the universe started with as the fundamental particles.

Excuse me, Mr. Nath -

I assume that you mean closer to the conditions of the " Big Bang " & not actually CLOSER COSMOLOGICALLY to the " Big Bang " itself.

I don't know about everyone else, but I can't see what you're getting at.

Should we scrap the Hubble Space Telescope & its companions in orbit ( Like GRO ) ? It costs money to funnel all that info back to Earth & the JPL.....

It would be nice, but frankly, I don't care if it does benefit society. Science as whole has yielded inummerable progress in society. It sickens me to think that anyone would condemn the pursuit of pure science because they do not see an immediate application for it.This is a very naive notion by people who have no concept of the science they are protesting.


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