In December 2015, scientists at the Large Hadron Collider saw an unusual disturbance in their signal that they couldn’t explain. They’re working right now to figure out whether it was a fluke, or a game-changing discovery.
The last big game-changer was the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012. That was when the so-called “God Particle” was confirmed. It was the linchpin in a major theory of particle physics called the Standard Model. Finding it took the effort of an international group of scientists called CERN, which built the 17-mile Large Hadron Collider under the French-Swiss border.
The discovery also gave new energy to a group of scientists who want to build an even bigger accelerator, one that is 62 miles in circumference. It would be the largest machine on earth.
Science writer Steve Nadis and Harvard Professor Shing-Tung Yau argue not only that this machine should be built – they say it should be built in China.
"It comes down to a question of who has the wherewithal and will to build such a machine," Nadis told WCAI. "In 1993, the United States canceled the superconducting super-collider, which would have been the largest one in the world. It was 20 percent built in Texas when it was canceled by Congress."
The Large Hadron Collider is still going strong, but even that has a shelf life of another decade or two, Nadis said. Nadis and Yau argue that it will take a few decades to build a new collider to take its place.
"Some physicists would like to start that process now so that when the Large Hadron Collider shuts down, particle physics won't shut down," Nadis said.
Note: This program originally aired January 11, 2016 on WCAI.