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Are we reaching fundamental limits on building large particle colliders?

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Replacing the dipole magnet/CERN

We keep hearing pleas for new ones called “wish lists.” Assessing the alternatives, a Columbia mathematician writes,

If none of these three alternatives is affordable or deemed worth the cost, it looks like the only alternative for energy frontier physics is to do what the US has done: give up. The machines and their cost being considered here are similar in scale to the SSC project, which would have been a 40 TeV CM energy 87 km proton-proton collider but was cancelled in 1993. Note that the capabilities of the SSC would have been roughly comparable to the HE-LHC (it had higher energy, lower luminosity). Since it would have started physics around 2000, and an HE-LHC might be possible in 2040, one could say that the SSC cancellation set back the field at least 40 years. The worst part of the SSC cancellation was that the project was underway and there was no fallback plan. It’s hard to overemphasize how disastrous this was for US HEP physics. Whatever the Europeans do, they need to be sure that they don’t end up with this kind of failure.

Faced with a difficult choice like this, there’s a temptation to want to avoid it, to believe that surely new technology will provide some more attractive alternative. In this case though, one is running up against basic physical limits. Peter Woit, ” Should the Europeans Give Up?” at Not Even Wrong

He doesn’t want to give up but he makes it clear that the options are narrow and expensive. He provides good links to the back-and-forth among physicists.

Perhaps we are entering a period of decline when cosmology is about the multiverse rather than the Higgs boson.

See also: Experimental Physicist: Particle Theory Is “In A Crisis” And A Bigger Collider IS The Answer!

3 Replies to “Are we reaching fundamental limits on building large particle colliders?

  1. 1
    vmahuna says:

    And for only a few gazillion Euros, 5 people on the planet can find out that the new machine STILL can’t prove God doesn’t exist or something. I’m sure glad that in this RARE case, the Americans chose SANITY over pipe dreams. After all, this HUGE investment of resources has a net return on investment, cash money profit-wise, of ZERO. Not that the US Government hasn’t repeatedly proven that it can pour money down a rat hole with the best of them.

  2. 2
    Eugene says:

    I cannot believe they are mentioning costs as a factor! Whatever the number is, I am sure it is a small fraction of what US is spending on military every year. And 90% of that military spending is really just for supporting the economy anyway, as not a single one of those missiles is going to ever be used. They might as well stimulate the economy by building a new collider. Not that I am particularly optimistic on discovering new physics there, but it is definitely no worse a project than wasting money on useless military hardware.

  3. 3
    News says:

    Eugene at 2, your point is well taken but consider: It is comparatively easy to get people to spend money on what they think is their own safety, as opposed to getting them to spend money on the advancement of knowledge of our world.

    Much national defense money is wasted because a wiser foreign policy would have used fewer funds more prudently. But very often the advocates of the wiser policy are not in a position of power.

    A critical question is, what do we want a collider to do that it can really do to advance knowledge? To what extent might many want it to do something that can’t be done because the universe does not work the way they thought and prohibitive costs are one clue? I remember confident predictions that the Collider would upend the Standard Model. Didn’t happen. What if a much bigger collider, a thousand times more expensive, doesn;t upend it either? Are we prepared to draw a conclusion then or to seek an EVEN bigger collider?

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