When elementary particles smash into each other at near light speed, there’s bound to be quite an impact. That’s certainly the case at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest particle accelerator, as it seeks answers to key questions about the creation, evolution and eventual destiny of the Universe.
Based at CERN in Switzerland, weighing 38,000 tonnes and housed in a circular tunnel 27 kilometres long, the LHC captured the world’s attention last year with the announcement that a particle consistent with the long-sought Higgs boson had finally been discovered. It’s a breakthrough that could help reinforce the Standard Model of particle physics which aims to explain how fundamental particles and forces inter-relate and shape the Cosmos. In the UK alone, no fewer than 12 million people witnessed TV coverage and 14 million heard radio reports of this historic event.
Right at the forefront of the LHC’s development, the UK is also playing a key role in the extraordinary programme of experiments being undertaken there. Here at STFC, it’s our job to co-ordinate that involvement and manage the UK’s overall subscription to CERN. And one thing seems sure – the iconic LHC will go on grabbing headlines and seizing imaginations in the years and decades ahead.