100 Japanese researchers involved
May marks the start of experiments with the Large Hadron Collider to search for particles unknown to mankind. The LHC is housed at CERN, the atomic research facility in Europe that found the Higgs boson, leading to the award of the Nobel Prize in Physics. Around 100 Japanese researchers will be involved with the experiments starting up this month. The whole world is paying attention, as the results of these new experiments may lead to new Nobel Prizes. They may also have an impact on the future of the ILC project, proposed to be built in the Kitakami mountains (Kitakami highlands) of Iwate Prefecture.
The LHC is the world’s most advanced circular particle accelerator, and is built in an underground tunnel 27 kilometers in circumference by the border of Switzerland and France. It accelerates and collides protons from hydrogen atoms to almost the speed of light to recreate the high-energy conditions of the Big Bang and birth of the universe. It then analyzes the particles that generate from this collision.
It restarted operations in June of last year after undergoing around 2 years of upgrades needed to approximately double the amount of energy it was originally designed to handle. This month will kick off its full-fledged experiments.
Particles discovered by humans thus far only account for less than 4% of the matter in the universe. The other 96% remains a mystery, and it is hoped that these new LHC experiments will discover new particles that will solve the mysteries of dark matter. Signs indicated the existence of a new particle in the experiments run over the past year, and the next few months should show even more revealing results.
Over 3,000 researchers are gathered at CERN from around the world, around 100 of which are Japanese. They are performing experiments with the ATLAS detector, a particle analysis device that detected the Higgs boson.
Dr. Kunihiro Nagano is a researcher responsible for the detector and is also an assistant professor at the Institute of Particle and Nuclear Studies at Japan’s KEK. He seemed pleased: “If we find a new particle, we’re guaranteed a Nobel Prize. We’re so excited to be progressing with experiments every day.”
Finding new particles is an international competition according to Dr. Yuji Enari, leader of the analysis group and assistant professor at the International Center for Elementary Particle Physics at University of Tokyo. “There will be many discoveries that diverge from existing theories. This research will be a page in history, and I’d love for the Japan team to find a new particle.”
The LHC collides protons (which are collections of elementary particles) together. It is able to perform experiments at extremely high energies, but the ILC will be colliding elementary particles together directly (electrons and positrons). Their interactions will be clearer than the LHC, and more precise experiments will be possible.
Dr. Nagano said, “The results of experiments at the LHC will further raise the value of the ILC. I’d love to do research in Iwate in the future.”
(Reporting at CERN done by Satoru Sakaki of Iwate Nippo’s Reporting Department, who traveled to Geneva, Switzerland this month)