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CERN | Geneva | Switzerland

View Blog | Read Bio

Did we build the LHC just to find the Higgs?

There are bozos and bosons, and if the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) were built only to find the Higgs boson, you would be absolutely right to think all physicists belong to the first category. But the fact is, the LHC does much more than search for Higgs bosons.

Despite the media focusing mainly on the Higgs boson, this search only represents one of the many aspects we hope to cover with the LHC. Granted, the Higgs boson brings such an elegant solution to the problem of the origin of mass that its high popularity among physicists has reached even the general public.

But the LHC could be opening the door to parallel worlds, extra dimensions or the discovery of as many new particles as the ones we already know. These are but some of the exciting questions we are trying to address.

By exploring the world of infinitely small particles, many of us hope to provide answers to the origin and fate of our universe. The ALICE experiment aims at studying the property of the quark-gluon plasma, a state of matter that existed only right after the Big Bang.

What happened just after the Big Bang? Why did matter overtake anti-matter when in laboratory, they are created in equal amounts? Where is this asymmetry coming from? This is precisely what the LHCb experiment wants to elucidate. And it has already taken great strides in this direction.

Finding out what dark matter is made of is certainly high on the LHC agenda. Dark matter was postulated in 1934 by Fritz Wicky to explain why rotating galaxies don’t simply fly apart under the effect of centrifugal forces. Some unseen but huge quantities of matter seem to provide the necessary gravitational field needed to hold them together. It is hard to dismiss it since dark matter and dark energy account for about 95% of all matter in our universe! But this strange type of matter, unlike stars and galaxies, does not emit any light, hence its name. It only responds to gravitation, leaving much room for speculation on its nature.

Many different hypotheses have been proposed to explain the nature of dark matter but so far, we have not succeeded in identifying particles associated with it. This mystery remains to be solved even though some experiments claim having seen it, while others contradict these observations.

Many of us, including myself, hope to get a glimpse at a parallel world called the Hidden Valley, a hypothetical world made of dark matter, with very few exchanges with our universe.

Both ATLAS and CMS, being such versatile experiments, can look for many different types of dark matter candidates. One possibility is proposed within supersymmetry (or SUSY for short), a theory so popular, many think it could be the first one to be discovered with the LHC.

SUSY is seen as the simplest extension one could make to the Standard Model to fill in a few holes left open in our current theory. As it stands, we have two categories of particles, the fermions and the bosons. The first ones are the building blocks of matter, the second are force carriers. These two sets of particles behave completely differently. Fermions have half units of spin (one basic property like the electric charge) whereas bosons either have spin 0, 1 or 2. SUSY associates a super partner to each particle such that each fermion would come with a “sfermion” (as in supersymmetric fermion) with integer spin associated to it. Same for the bosons. Heavier particles would be associated with light ones, and vice-versa. That way, everything would seem much more balanced, getting rid of the puzzling differences among all the elementary particles, ranging from ultra light to super heavy.

Supersymmetry has everything to be successful except that it has not manifested itself yet, despite all our attempts at unveiling it.

What would you say if you found out we do not live in a four-dimensional world, (three dimensions of space and one of time) but rather one containing extra hidden dimensions? This is at least what some theorists suggested, predicting that these dimensions are so small that they are not readily available to us. To visualize this, imagine you are a tightrope walker. To you, only one-dimension is accessible: you can move forward or backward. But for an insect walking on the same taut cable, it is also possible to go around the cable, giving it access to an additional dimension that is inaccessible to you.

Why should we need this? Extra dimensions would explain why gravitation is so weak. We physicists have pondered forever over the huge discrepancy between say the electromagnetic force and gravitational force: 41 orders of magnitude at the scale of the nucleus! Just think how much stronger a small fridge magnet is compared to gravitation. Bring it close enough to the fridge and the magnet can overcome the gravitational attraction of a whole planet! If extra dimensions exist, they would provide a place where most of the strength of the gravitational force could be leaking to, leaving only a small fraction of it for us to feel on the macroscopic scale.

Who needs science fiction when we have particle physics? Enough strange puzzling questions and even stranger possible answers to blow your mind!

Pauline Gagnon

To be alerted of new postings, follow me on Twitter: @GagnonPauline

A selection of recent results obtained by the ATLAS experiment in search for new discoveries. In blue, searches for various supersymmetric models, in turquoise, models involving extra dimensions, and the other colors showing even more exotic models. 

  • Stephen Baker

    Brilliant Blog! I’m fairly new to Quantum Physics, yesterday I was teaching myself about QED and the slit wall theory. They really do blow your mind! I agree, who needs Science Fiction when you have particle physics!

    Here’s hoping to the continued success of the LHC!


  • CB

    “to the origin and faith of our universe.” Faith? Is that to do with the “God Particle” or a typo?

  • bernard mandel

    What if we arrive to the conclusion that LHC has just been a verification of the standard model. Not even so because there is a good chance we will not find the Higgs boson.
    millions euros of tax payers money!!

  • ʟɮʩʑɩʀʭɚɠɯɼɥɡɟʆɪʝɱʬʥ

    it’s surely “fate” … nice freudian slip …

  • Jimmy

    That’s a good thing! It shows where to search next to help unravel the mysteries of the universe. It would be puzzling and awesome if the Higgs wasn’t found. It means new theories can be tested.



  • ObjectiveSee

    These seem like big questions to be asking when we don’t even know the basics, how does time actually work? The radiation of caesium atoms currently used to calculate it is not how it works it is only proof that it is occurring. Without this fundamental knowledge first how can we possibility think that we can discover any of the above?

  • Ryan

    Where do you propose we start? As has always been the question with science.

  • Jochum van der Bij

    Actually there is no reason that the LHC will find new physics. On the contrary there are good
    reasons that the LHC will not find new physics. There are two aspects.
    First, femions and vectorbosons. Phys. Rev. D76, 121702(R)(2007) shows that the standard model
    is the only consistent low energy theory, that is no new fermions, no new vectorbosons and therefore
    also no supersymmetry at the LHC. That leaves the Higgs sector.
    Phys. Lett. B638,234(2006) and Nucl. Phys. B853,49 (2011) show that the Higgs field may have
    been seen at LEP and is of a form that can easily escape detection at the LHC.
    See also my talk at the LHC2tSP meeting.

    Jochum van der Bij
    Professor of elementary particle phenomenology
    University of Freiburg

  • miquel

    I find this last comment very disturbing. Why then have we invested in the LHC? Let em tell you, If nothing new is discovered, there is a good chance the general public will consider that the LHC has been just a huge waste of money. What is worse, it might be true.

  • Pauline Gagnon

    Hello Jochum and Miguel,

    thousands of physicists agreed that building the LHC was a good idea, that it would help push science forward. And the thousands of physicists currently involved also know it will take 10-20 years to fully exploit the discovery potential of the LHC. We are one year into this research program, way to early to claim this was a waste. Already, with all the searches done, stringent constraints are being put on many different models. We will need to rule them all out before we can say: see, there was nothing new. The vast majority of theorists is convinced we will find something new and crack the door open towards the global picture of how it all works. Drawing any conclusions right now is way to early. Of course, the majority could be wrong, this is always possible, but let’s look 20 years from now where we are and then draw the final conclusions. This is no short-term program, we need lots of data before we can conclude anything, especially given the many fronts where we are looking. So let’s be patient and see how it evolves. Meanwhile, many technological developments and new imaging techniques have been developed and that will be beneficial too in other domains.

  • Alasdair

    It is certain that the LHC will make at least one, if not many more, contribution to Physics. It will either find the final piece of the Higgs puzzle, (the Higgs Boson) or it will search all energy ranges and find nothing. If the first is true then we have verification of Higgs’ theory for symmetry breaking and if the latter is found (perhaps most exitingly) it sends theorists back to the drawing board in search of an even more elegant theory of how particles obtained mass. One of these two outcomes is inevitable and whichever it be I for one am excited at the prospect as it is a massive piece of the story of 21st century physics.

  • anna v

    Professor, what about CP violation? It certainly says there should be new physics at some scale.

    You take care of dark matter in your proposed model though if it is as ubiquitous as the astrophysicists tell us and as large in proportion to known matter one would have to also explain why we did not see it in LEP if the HIggs has already manifested there. And for sure one should see it in the LHC, i.e. large chunks of missing energy and mass? That would be exciting enough as a discovery even if there is no explicit Higgs.

  • Julian

    The first casualty of the LHC could be string theory. Already running out of momentum in terms of new proposals, if SUSY is not found it will dampen the already diminishing interest of students and the genral public. But that could be a good thing, only time will tell. Speaking of time, the comment ‘before the big bang there was no space or time’ sounds ridiculous. If something exists, there is time. The thing that blew up existed before the bang, so there was time before the big bang.

  • Agner Sorensen

    Agner Says

    The creation of the LHC brought us the internet, How good is that

  • Regardless of intended purposes, was the nature of God just shown by Opera?

    When reading through the religious tomes I came to the conclusion that God is what brings order to the universe. Well to me that means that God is Space-Time. Einstein had that correct; they are one and the same, inseparable. When you think about it, it fits very well even with what is written in Genesis. From the NIV version:
    3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

    When we consider this… “What is required to bring forth light?” You have to have radiant energy correct? What do you need first and foremost for that? You need time and position. You need Space-Time.
    The basic characteristics of God regardless of belief are Omniscience, Omnipresence, and Omnipotence. Think about it, Space-Time is what brings the reference point that allows all the chaos of information to order, so all information goes through it. It is woven into the fabric of everywhere and when and without it, we cease to exist, we vanish into chaos.
    Is there anything else that represents the “Nature of God” better than Space-Time it’s self?
    If one considers the universe as a Venn diagram of dimensions, the intersecting core of which is our universe. This is why our universe is still expanding, because we are still early in the collision as more and more space time and other dimensions feed into the collision expanding the core of the Venn diagram which is our universe. The Big Bang was the moment that Space Time intruded into what is the rest of the core.
    As soon as you realize God is Space-Time, it becomes obvious that Satan is Gravity. It is the one thing that rips space time apart and throws the ordered universe back into the Chaos of information that lies outside Space Time. This answers 3 questions at once, “What happens when you go faster than the speed of light?”, “What happens when you go through a Black Hole?” and “What is Heaven?”. The answer to all is “The Chaos outside the order of Space Time”.
    The Chaos provides the information that is your “soul”. When Space Time sets its order to that information that is “life”.
    The neutrino departing the boundaries of Space Time shows that information can be re ordered from the chaos.
    The evidence leans to nature using frequency to regulate time. That means there is going to be a natural frequency to Space-Time. If it is truly mankind’s destiny to travel the Cosmos, the key will lie within that frequency. With that, we can potentially find how to slip through the chaos of eternity outside Space-Time to reenter where we please. To understand God in this instance could truly lead to our being masters of our universe.

  • Agner Sorensen

    Hi, God brought about the LHC. It is all about human life gaining more knowledge of his Universe

  • shmith

    Matter whether economic, political, Ye Hao, democracy, freedom, hard times, the worldchanges, the future United States who play a leading role, who will dominate the future world, the United Nations will play a world government role? How will the human and socialdevelopment and change, how will the world and the functioning of the planet, nuclear danger, war, energy and resource crisis, economic crisis, financial crisis, debt crisis, Earth crisis,earthquake, destroying the planet? -500 -1000 100 years in human years, the community will enter the planet, or is into black holes and the Big Bang? Philosophers, thinkers, economists,politicians and political scientists, strategists, religionist, entrepreneurs, bankers, home news,literary master, and so many exquisite views and clever theory. Most common concern of mankind faced a major problem, the key is, predict the road, will know that the first division.Extremely powerful natural science and technology, history and social development of all mankind survival variation of the giant locomotive forward progress of civilization, the history of most powerful propeller, the greatest of atomic energy. Although the future is long, thorny,everything will go with the flow, without unfounded. As recent discoveries of natural science:the so-called God particle, higgs-particle, in effect, is that “super-spin-child” – “super-rotatingfield theorem – super-rotating spin-spin derivative of the origin of the material and the mechanical nature of the universe, quantum physics of the “spin of the field”, “without which,why the world and nature, the universe, God particle? Natural scientists discover and revealhow important it is. From here, from near and far, many dazed and confused crisis not to clearit? Why is the first Nobel awards give those natural scientists, physicists, chemists, the reason all this. Of higher animal world economy, or low economic animal world? Therefore, the great man’s best teacher is nature’s most perfect science textbooks.

  • Agner Sorensen

    Dear Henning,The Tv company in Denmark Nordiskfilm made a TV show Sensing Murder which went to a number of countries. Sensing Murder has a method that can demonstrate that an unseen intelligence has knowledge of the past. This needs looking at for it shows, that some thing unseen can inspire correct thoughts in mediums. I guess this unseen is what makes up part of dark matter in the universe

  • Agner Sorensen

    Dear Quantum Diaries,

    I sincerely hope you have some one contact Nordiskfilm Tv about the TV show Sensing Murder they own. You see Sensuing Murder is a filmed scientific method proving the unseen can inspire correct thoughts in humans. As people who explore our universe it is worthwhile to make contact with Nordiskfilm, and ask about the genuiness of their TV show.There is information on the internet about Sensing Murder, and sceptics reject the show, but I ask you to contact Nordiskfilm, and get correct information.

    I have not the ability of mediums, but I spent some 20years observing the phenomena, and I can assure you that Noerdiskfilm TV show is genuine.

    Since it is inexpensive to make an inquiry, I ask you to make it for Nordiskfilm will confirm that an unseen intelligence exists. This will give new thoughts on some scientific subjects.

    Agner Sorensen

  • N.Stolwijk

    Hmm writing in Capitals doesn’t proof you are right!
    It just gives me the idea there is something wrong with your keyboard!

  • N.Stolwijk

    Might it be possible that at such high energy’s the universal constants might not be formed yet? (not new physics but new circumstances)

  • N.Stolwijk

    what are you scared of? just keep on believing.
    And let the people who want to know find out how things work! And don’t bother them with!

  • Agner Sorensen

    Nordiskfilm TV made a Tv show that demonstrates the unseen exists, some 7 years ago. Learned peole reject the show without scientific evaluation, which is something science should not be. Since Science is wondering what the dark matter is in the universe, science should explore what Nordiskfilm TV has proven to exist. The start place is making an inquiry with Nordiskfilm Tv to ensure the show is genuine, and that is not hard or expensive, but there is a reluctance to do this little thing.

  • fluidic

    dear Pauline Gagnon:

    What you are explaining is very nice to our ears and could be music to our souls and brains. But! calming people by some tranquilizer shots by saying that we need to wait another 20 yrs to claim either complete failure of the higgs mechanism or complete sucess is just extremely out of normal bounds of logic and funding sources. It has been 30-40 yrs plus say another 20yrs makes a total of 60 yrs !!! you should have thought well and deep enough before publishing such statements because they will backfire.

    dear Pauline: I am predicting that the physical realism is not thru the higgs mechanism, nor can we make hard mathematical physics theory that generate mathematically the SM of quantum physics, whose complexity (equations, variables, complex trasformations, absolute operators, etc.) we train and teach our graduate student doctors that this is the SM !!! now how could you contribute to it so i graduate you? the student doctors are bound to think along the same nurdy atittude of their chairman of the graduating committee or else, they will never graduate !!!

    Sorry! this is what we been building in the minds of our graduates to graduate them. They are not allowed to think for example, of non-probabilistic quantum mechanics, or supposedly, cannot think that the higgs space and mass portation mechanism does not exist, and must not think out-of-the-box !!! my dear Pauline, this is non-sensical and constitutes NO SCIENCE, NO ENGINEERING, NO QUANTUMIZATION, NO NOTHING !!!

    This is why we are where we are right now, with public anxiety of where we are going with the higgs boson and how much more spending is yet to be expected to find NOTHING at the end of the day, possibly 20yrs from NOW!!!

    This reminds of neutrinos reaching 60ns earlier than photons!!! how about, there must be an experimental problem with that setup, just because we cant fix GR or SR theory to accommodate this incident! but for millions of runs at CERN their setups and results were never challenged nor contested because they go with the probabilistic expectations and flows!! but now that something does not, then there must be an experimental setup or measurement error!!!! is this science or cocorico ?

    merci, Pauline, I am sure you have open mind to hear little critique, and i appologize if there is any inconvenience, but science and facts together make scientic evidence.


  • Joost

    Not sure it M Keuler only has a faulty keyboard. Good post though.

  • Not quite. Although the web was developed at CERN, it predates the LHC.