In DepthParticle Physics

Collider plans face cloudy prospects

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Science  01 Mar 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6430, pp. 911-912
DOI: 10.1126/science.363.6430.911

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Summary

A worrying lack of discoveries is making it challenging for physicists to rally support for their next great collider. Researchers in Europe, China, and Japan have released different plans for a successor to the current biggest atom smasher, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, Europe's particle physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, which unearthed the long-predicted Higgs boson in 2012, but so far has produced no other new particles. The successor machine thought to be closest to hand, the International Linear Collider, is bringing these concerns to a head. By the time members of the Linear Collider Board meet in Tokyo on 7 March, Japan's government is expected to have issued a statement about whether it will host the $7.5 billion machine. Meanwhile, researchers in both China and Europe are considering independent plans for a circular electron-positron collider measuring 100 kilometers in circumference. It would run much less efficiently than a linear collider, but its tunnel could later be used for a new proton collider that would rev the particles up to energies seven times as high as the LHC's, increasing the potential for discovering new particles. Hanging over the issue is the worry that the scientific mission of the next collider—to study the decays of the Higgs boson in detail—may not be exciting enough to attract the next generation of physicists.