The Large Hadron Collider – LHC, CERN’s 25-kilometer high-energy particle accelerator in Switzerland, has led to several groundbreaking discoveries in the world of theoretical physics, most recently allowing scientists to supplement the Standard Model of particle physics with the Higgs boson.
Building on the success of the LHC, several researchers are now looking to build something even bigger and better, a particle accelerator that could be up to four times larger and cost somewhere around 25 billion dollars, indicates Futurism.
This state of affairs gave physicist Tom Hartsfield some cause for concern. In a new essay, the researcher says that a particle accelerator of this size simply wouldn’t justify the money and effort – and what’s more, those funds should be invested elsewhere.
Hartsfield’s reasoning: findings in the field are increasingly obscure and theoretical. What’s more, there’s still a chance that supersymmetry, a highly specialized set of rules that scientists have used to fill in the gaps in the Standard Model of particle physics, can’t explain much.
“Super-symmetry is not a strict and efficient theory welded together to explain the observations,” he writes. “It’s a tangled web of mathematical models that could explain anything or nothing.”
Simply put, spending billions of dollars on an even bigger particle accelerator may end up not being able to test this new theory.
Thus, spending nearly $100 billion—according to Hartsfield’s own estimates—on a new version of the LHC could ultimately turn out to be a colossal mistake. “When you don’t have much to do and limited resources, it’s better to focus on problems you know are out there,” Hartsfield writes. “These things will lead you to new discoveries.”
“There are many known problems in physics right now,” he argues. “$100 billion could fund literally 100,000 smaller physics experiments.” That much money could even solve other big problems, he suggested, like fusion power, which would likely be a huge net good for the world.
CERN is in the early stages of developing a project for a 100-kilometer “Future Circular Collider,” a massive construction project expected to be completed by 2040. But not everyone agrees that such a massive accelerator would lead even to significant advances in our understanding of the universe.