Life after Higgs boson: What's next for the world's largest atom smasher?
It's a Higgs boson!! Now what? After confirming that the particle discovered last July really is a Higgs boson, the Large Hadron Collider is ready to look for other universes, figure out dark matter, recreate the Big Bang, or find something totally unexpected.
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LHCb (Large Hadron Collider beauty): The LHCb project studies how B mesons decay. Mesons are particles made of a quark and an antiquark bound together; a B meson contains a flavor of quark known as the "b-quark." Studying this decay helps scientists understand imbalances between antimatter and matter. During the Big Bang, matter and antimatter should have been created in equal amounts, leading physics theories suggest. Even so, the world is made up nearly entirely of matter, so the mystery remains: What happened to the antimatter?Skip to next paragraph
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The LHCb will also study the decay products of the Higgs boson particle.
LHCf (Large Hadron Collider forward): This project is just spacey. The LHCf is focused on the physics of cosmic rays, charged particles that flow through space. Ultra-high-energy cosmic rays remain a mystery to physicists, who hope to find out their origins with the help of the LHCf experiment, which is a joint collaboration with the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina and the Telescope Array in Utah.
TOTEM (Total Cross Section, Elastic Scattering and Diffraction Dissociation): The TOTEM detector is small by LHC standards, involving only about 100 scientists (projects such as ATLAS have thousands). The goal is to measure how particles scatter at small angles from proton-proton collisions in the LHC. Collisions studied by TOTEM include those where one proton or both protons survive the crash, enabling scientists to calculate the likelihood of a collision destroying both protons. Those numbers, in turn, tell researchers the probability of producing particular particles in a collision.
One thread connecting all experiments at the Large Hadron Collider is the hope that something new and unexpected will arise.
"There's certainly a long history in physics where you get the ability to look at things at much smaller and smaller scales, you see something you didn't expect," Woit told LiveScience. "They're hoping the LHC would find something that we hadn't thought of. And that hasn’t happened yet, and maybe it never will."
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LiveScience's Tia Ghose contributed reporting to this story.
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