The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN was shut down on Feb 14, 2013. LHC will be down for the next two years. This is a pause that refreshes. The entire accelerator chain at CERN will be upgraded during this long shutdown. The most critical upgrade is the replacement of all the connectors between the superconducting magnets. The new connectors (splices) will be able carry up to 20000 amperes of current (imagine the cost of electricity). This will allow LHC to reach the beam-beam collision energy of 14 Tev. Before the shutdown the beam-beam collision energy was 8 Tev. Here’s a close-up picture of a connector between the superconducting magnets.
The collision energy of the proton beams is not the same as the collision energy between the components of protons. Inside the protons there are quarks and gluons. During beam-beam collisions if there is a direct hit between the quarks and gluons then a vortex of energy forms for a fraction of a second. From this temporary vortex new particles emerge. When the beam-beam collisions happen at 14 Tev the number of 1 Tev or higher vortices increases significantly. There is a significant discovery potential in the quark-quark collisions above 1 Tev. This is why LHC upgrade is necessary. To learn more about this please refer to Matt Strassler’s article.
The objective of a collider such as LHC is to create a very high energy density in a small volume. In the past century we learned that when we create a stir in the primordial fabric by creating an energy density in a small region of space new particles emerge from the center of that vortex. We also learned that particles can be transformed into each other. There are certain restrictions and rules, but in general, any particle can be turned into pure energy and then from pure energy into another type of particle. At this point in human history, we cannot control the conversion process precisely but we know how to do it in a dirty way.
Just to illustrate the last point, I should point out that proton does not contain a t-quark. Yet, we discovered t-quarks in the debris of the proton and anti-proton collisions at the Fermilab Tevatron collider. The LHC collider at CERN re-discovered the t-quark in the debris of the proton-proton collisions.
From the billions of quark-quark, quark-antiquark, quark-gluon, gluon-gluon collisions created at the LHC experiments CMS and ATLAS a new particle was discovered. It is most probably the theorized Higgs Boson. It is a new particle for us but it is not new for the universe. In the universe there are many places where the energy densities are much higher than the energy densities we can create at LHC. Higgs Boson is abundant in the universe but it is rare on Earth. In fact, according to the Standard Model (SM) of particle physics the field behind the Higgs Boson – Higgs field – permeates the the entire universe.
The prestigious journal “Science” selected the discovery of the Higgs Boson as the “breakthrough of the year” and published special articles telling the story of the discovery process (21 December 2012 issue – Volume 338 Issue 6114)
By the way, the person who was the leader of the LHC design and construction, Lyn Evans truly deserves a Nobel Prize. He was recently awarded the Fundamental Physics Prize.
“The LHC exceeded all expectations in its first three-year run, delivering significantly more data to the experiments than initially foreseen. Physicists measure data quantity in units known as inverse femtobarns, and by the time the last high energy proton-proton data were recorded in December, the ATLAS and CMS experiments had each recorded around 30 inverse femtobarns, of which over 23 were recorded in 2012. To put this into context, the particle whose discovery was announced on 4 July 2012 was found by analysing around 12 inverse femtobarns. That means CERN’s experimental physics community still has plenty of data to analyse during LS1.” from CERN
“The work will by no means be confined to the LHC. Major renovation work is scheduled, for example, for the Proton Synchrotron (PS) and the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS). During LS1 the upgrade of the PS access control system, which includes the installation of 25 new biometrically controlled access points, will continue. The whole tunnel ventilation system will also be dismantled and replaced, with 25 air-handling units representing a cumulated flow rate of 576,000 cubic metres per hour to be installed around the accelerator’s 628-metre circumference. Meanwhile, at the SPS, about 100 kilometres of radiation-damaged cables used in the instrumentation and control systems will be removed or replaced.” – from CERN