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Comment on the CERN particle accelerator of CERN – Wissen

Physics is in crisis, so researchers want to build a giant particle accelerator, which costs more than 20 billion euros. But the world has more urgent problems.

Comment by Patrick Illinger

Those who want to understand the universe must also look in detail: the world of hadrons, electrons, gluons and quarks. Show what keeps our cosmos united at its core. To explore these foundations of the universe, physicists have built particle accelerators for several decades. In it, tiny elementary particles collide with extreme energy, such as hydrogen nuclei. Collision reaction products reveal which primary forces and which elementary particles form our world.

But even the biggest accelerator so far, the total of 27 kilometers Large Hadron Collider at the Cern research center near Geneva, it was not possible to clarify all the questions. Therefore, physicists now propose to build an even more powerful particle cannon – in a 100-kilometer ring tunnel, 500 meters deep. Anyone who has ever seen the experimental arrangements of the dimensions of a cathedral today in the Cern subsoil, can hardly imagine that it is even bigger, even more powerful.

Physics is in crisis: if a new accelerator offers the way out, it is debatable

Two questions are pressing: who should pay it? And: how much can you be sure the next accelerator will clarify the latest physics questions? Both can be discussed. The at least € 20 billion for the FCC, as the CERN mega-project is called, should be spent on urgent humanitarian issues such as climate protection, say influential scientists with some justification. But playing out areas of research one against the other is complicated. So, for example, human spaceflight should be tested. It is perhaps more spectacular than a particle accelerator, but far less scientifically. And regarding the often-cited international aspect of the International Space Station, thousands of brilliant minds around the world are working together on a mission to CERN.

20 billion euros should be acceptable in this sense, especially when dozens of nations participate. It would only be a fraction of what the space station costs. And for the understanding of the universe, it would be a great step forward to learn what the dark matter that circulates in space or how gravity fits the other forces of particle physics. The laws of gravitation are still incompatible with quantum physics.

But a new giant accelerator will satisfy the thirst for knowledge? Here physicists, especially theorists, need explanations. For years they have accumulated mountains of mathematical formula to complete the vision of the physical world. Many of his theories discussed are of a mathematically impressive elegance, such as "supersymmetry" or "string theory". But everyone has a flaw: none of these ideas has been confirmed in particle accelerator measurements. Physics is in a real crisis. It is questionable whether an even larger particle accelerator offers the way out.

Of course, science must break into unknown waters in order to open new horizons. But currently there is an enticing amount of new ground in more realistic questions; World food, renewable energy, climate protection and resource consumption are just some of these.

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