The Large Hadron Collider: The Higgs boson is far from the end of exciting discoveries about the fundamental nature of the universe – Professor Sinad Farrington

Some dipole magnets bend the path of accelerating protons at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in a CERN tunnel (Photo: Valentin Flauraud/AFP via Getty Images)
Some dipole magnets bend the path of accelerating protons at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in a CERN tunnel (Photo: Valentin Flauraud/AFP via Getty Images)

A magnet inside the collider – the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator made up of a 27-kilometre ring of superconducting magnets – malfunctioned, releasing tons of liquid helium, pushing several tons of magnets from their carriers.

Temporarily, the LHC’s world-leading research has been suspended. However, by 2010 it was up and running again and since then it has yielded world record results and discoveries.

This summer, the Atlas experiment at the LHC, where they collaborated, recorded proton collisions at another record-breaking energy of 13.6 TeV (the amount gained by an electron accelerating through a trillion volts), a testament to many feats of engineering, including So many applications that have found applications in medical and imaging accelerators.

During the collision, the basic proton components “quark” and “gluon” can interact to produce myriad types of particles. The LHC experiments are designed to detect the products of collisions – measuring already known particles with much higher precision – and most importantly, to discover new and unexpected particle signatures. Protons colliding with ever higher energies mean that new, heavier particles can be produced.

Recently, the Atlas trial, along with its sister trial, CMS, achieved another unprecedented milestone, with each of them publishing 1,000 research papers.

The most influential paper to date – now cited by scientists 12,000 times – was published in 2012 and detailed the discovery of the “Higgs boson”.

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Theorized by Peter Higgs Professor Emeritus at the University of Edinburgh, the Higgs boson is a fundamental particle that interacts with anything with mass. The Nobel Prize-winning observation was the first successful identification of a particle that gives mass to all known particles. It is the force of the particle’s interaction with the Higgs boson that determines its mass.

Because the Higgs boson itself has mass, it can self-pair, a phenomenon that presents a whole new world of discovery.

With major upgrades for the Large Hadron Collider scheduled to operate in 2029, new, unprecedented precision will be unleashed. The resulting data set will allow us to learn about the strength of the self-interaction of the Higgs, a parameter associated with the fate of the universe, leading to results with significant implications.

The LHC has the potential to link the smallest components of our universe with questions on global scales, addressing issues such as the nature of dark matter, which astronomical observations indicate is present in our universe, and the apparent dominance of matter over antimatter. More detailed measurements of the Higgs boson could shed light on these questions and even the stability of the universe.

The next 1,000 papers at the Large Hadron Collider will continue to shape our understanding of the fundamental world along with the exciting work of people from all over the world to map new regions of the subatomic world. Be prepared for the unexpected.

Sinéad Farrington is Professor at the University of Edinburgh’s Institute of Particle and Nuclear Physics, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. This article expresses her own opinions. RSE is Scotland’s national academy, bringing great minds together to contribute to the social, cultural and economic well-being of Scotland. Find out more at and Tweet embed.

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