Geneva-based particle physics research center CERN has proposed a successor to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) — a 27-kilometer long ring-shaped particle accelerator — which will be almost four times longer and 10 times as powerful.
Named the Future Circular Collider (FCC), this piece of cutting edge hardware will approximately cost $26 billion. The aim is to have the FCC hunting for new sub-atomic particles by 2050. However, critics have said this money would be better spent elsewhere, such as fighting climate change.
The CERN director general has termed the proposal “remarkable”, saying “It shows the tremendous potential of the FCC to improve our knowledge of fundamental physics and to advance many technologies with a broad impact on society.”
The elite research center’s plans have been submitted in a conceptual design report, which will be considered by an international panel of particle physicists.
In its initial stages, the project would involve digging a new tunnel under CERN headquarters, installing a ring that would initially collide electrons with their positively charged counterparts, positrons. Stage two would involve colliding protons with electrons. This would lay the groundwork for throwing protons at each other ten times harder than was possible in the previous hadron collider.
Scientists hope that these collisions will reveal a number of new particles which would help them better understand the physical laws of the universe. It was exactly this kind of experiment in the LHC which led to the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle in 2012.
However, CERN will have its work cut out for it convincing taxpayers that such an experiment would be worth the cost.
One of the project’s opponents, UK former chief scientific advisor Sir David King argues that physics will always offer new mysteries which scientists will say need to be solved, and that limits are needed.
“There is always going to be more deep physics to be conducted with larger and larger colliders. My question is to what extent will the knowledge that we already have be extended to benefit humanity?” King has argued.
“We are rattling towards a high temperature planet in which the current global economy will cease to operate. More than 150 million people will be displaced. So if we had a pot of £20bn and we were discussing what to do with it, we would be faced with people in the medical sciences community coming up to us with ideas to improve human health and wellbeing,” he added.