On April 5, the Large Hadron Collider restarted after remaining dormant for two years.
The LHC is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. The LHC is a 27 mile ring of superconducting magnets that is used to accelerate two particle beams nearly the speed of light until they smash into each other.
In order to achieve these speeds, the magnets must be a frigid negative 271.3 degrees Celsius, a temperature colder than outer space.
When the particles collide, it creates temperatures over 100,000 times hotter than the center of the sun, approximately 1.6 trillion degrees Celsius.
These conditions allow scientists to test theories about the nature of matter and other fundamental theories of physics.
From Sept. 2008 to Feb. 2013, scientists working at the LHC successfully uncovered evidence of the existence of the Higgs boson.
The Higgs boson, or Higgs particle, explains why elemental particles have mass. Additionally, the LHC’s first run produced quark-gluon plasma, the densest matter ever observed that previously was thought to have only existed in the moments of the big bang, only black holes are denser.
The LHC is one of the most expensive machines ever created, with an approximately $9 billion budget. This figure may seem giant, but it is one of the few success stories to be found in terms of funding large scale scientific exploration.
The LHC is pushing the boundaries of physics and furthering the depth of our species understanding of the universe in which we live. In comparison, the annual budget for all of NASA is $17.5 billion. The amount that the United States will spend on NASA in 2015 is less than half of the annual budget.
NASA is responsible for thousands of technologies that have benefited the nation including water purification technology, solar cells and artificial limbs.
The economic turmoil that has characterized the world economy for the past seven years has left governments looking for ways to reduce their spending. But subjecting scientific exploration to austerity is shortsighted and cripples long-term prosperity. Many of the world’s greatest inventions have been discovered by mistake. By increasing the funding that is channeled to the world’s top scientists, we will create more opportunities to find ingenious solutions to problems that haven’t even been identified yet.
The LHC is one of the lone examples of an adequately funded large scale scientific research project, and provides an image of what can be achieved when exploration receives financial support.
On this second stage of operation, the LHC will be operating with 60 percent more power than during the first run. Researchers hope that this increased power will allow them to observe the behavior of dark matter, which composes an estimated 85 percent of the matter in our universe.
We live in the digital age, the age of information. As the amount of available information increases exponentially there is a seemingly inverse trend in the amount of valuable information. The LHC is a project that seeks to answer questions about how our universe was formed, and the true nature of the laws of physics by which we are all bound. The LHC is a project that exists above partisan conflicts and national rivalries.
The LHC provides an example of how seeking scientific discovery can unite nations and benefit all mankind, and that is something well worth paying for.