Tuesday, July 10, 2018 by Edsel Cook
Several physicists are urging the construction of a new facility to supplement the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The particle detectors will hunt for long-lived particles that have escaped the biggest particle accelerator ever built, an article in Science Daily stated.
The LHC is a huge ring of superconducting magnets built underground in the French-Swiss border. It fires many thousands of protons at one another and takes notes of the energetic results.
It took 10 years and billions of dollars to build the LHC. Since it started running in 2008, it has discovered the elusive Higgs boson. Yet it has also failed to answer many long-standing questions about particle physics.
The proposed Massive Timing Hodoscope for Ultra Stable Neutral Particles (MATHUSLA) is supposed to amend this. To be constructed above ground, it will target the many stray high-energy particles with long lifespans that are able to escape the walls of the LHC during the latter’s operation. (Related: Cutting edge physics experiment proves SCIENCE really doesn’t know what matter is made of… scientists baffled.)
Physicists have pieced together a picture of the quantum universe in the Standard Model. Yet this image is more like an unfinished puzzle with a lot of missing pieces.
The Higgs boson discovered by the LHC is one of these holes. Professor David Curtin of the University of Toronto explained that the Higgs does not possess the mass attributed to it by quantum physicists before its discovery. That means any equations in the Standard Model involving the Higgs needs “corrections.”
In scientific parlance, “corrections” are merely substitutes for things researchers have not yet understood. One such correction is the cosmological constant that Albert Einstein added to his theory of general relativity to account for something that turned out to be the effects of the expanding universe.
Curtin believed that the underweight Higgs suggested the presence of unknown particles that affect the boson. These missing particles have somehow escaped the attention of the LHC’s sensors.
Curtin, therefore, proposed the construction of MATHUSLA to find the missing particles that the LHC has failed to notice.
His suggestion is supported by theoretical physicist Jessie Shelton from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. During the April 2018 conference held by the American Physical Society (APS), she argued that the sensors of the LHC are tuned to look for short-lived particles that decay very quickly, instead of long-lived ones with a long decay life.
Shelton says re-calibrating the sensors and algorithms of the LHC is a short-term solution. That way, it can detect a long-lived particle, which sometimes decays very quickly or leaves signs of its presence.
However, she also thinks the missing exotic particles are not decaying fast enough. The long-lived particles might be surviving long enough to escape the LHC, go through hundreds of feet of granite, and reach the surface before decaying in the woods, far out of the sensors’ range.
Curtin and Shelton believe the best chance to spot these long-lived particles is MATHUSLA. Built above-ground, directly over the LHC, and packed with particle detectors, MATHUSLA would be able to study any particles that escaped the particle accelerator.
The thick granite between the LHC and MATHUSLA would filter out most particles. Only long-lived particles that can last long enough to make it to the surface will be detected.
Curtin said MATHUSLA is much simpler and far less expensive than the LHC itself. He hoped the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) would be interested in funding their proposal.
Read more articles about the efforts to better understand the universe at FutureScienceNews.com.