Science Questions

What has the LHC contributed to science so far?

Mon, 24th Oct 2011

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Question

Conrad Webb, Facebook asked:

Excluding it's construction, what has the large hadron collider contributed to science so far?

Answer

Dominic -   Well itís quite interesting from my point of view because I did a physics degree 10 years ago and I think one of the main thing that's come out of the LHC so far is actually disproving many of the theories that I learned 10 years ago as being very probably correct.  There was a theory called super-symmetry which people were very fond of a few years ago and they thought they were probably right. 

But in fact, the LHC hasnít found evident of those particles, and the theory essentially appears to now be completely wrong.  Obviously, you've heard a lot about the Higgs boson which is the mechanism by which we think particles acquire mass and the LHC hasnít definitely detected that yet in some of the places where it might be expected to see it, but there are still places where it could be.  The LHC is a long term experiment and I think in the next few years, itís going to really see what theories are correct rather than what itís done so far in disproving some of our previous ideas, so I think stay tuned.

Chris -   I also think that when you have big investment in big projects that have to solve a lot of project problems to deploy and develop that project, you inevitably produce spin offs that would otherwise not have come about and I think one of the good ones, Peter Quinn who I think you met in Western Australia whoís heading up the Australian bid for the square kilometre array made the point to me that actually the world wide web came from the grid that was assembled at CERN because of particle accelerators and physicists needing to share huge amounts of data.  That probably wouldnít have happened, at least at the rate it has, were it not for the need to share that data because of something that could produce a huge amount of data.  So I think it is kind of important, isn't it? 

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