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CERN | Geneva | Switzerland

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What’s coming up at CERN in 2013?

The Year of the Dragon (2012) came with a roar: a wonderful discovery and a greater understanding of how matter works. What might 2013, the Year of the Serpent, have in store for CERN? The serpent could very well represent the long and winding road of the many new upgrades ahead.

On Monday 11 February at 6 am Geneva time, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will stop producing collisions, marking the start of a major overhaul for all accelerators at CERN. This will be the first in a series of three long-shutdowns to allow a complete refurbishing of the main accelerator, the LHC. The goal is to be able to increase its energy from the actual 8 TeV to 13 or even 14 TeV. This means an increased reach for new particles.

This is not just to play a game of who will find the biggest particle, but rather an attempt at finding the passageway to new theories. Since energy (E) and mass (m) are two forms of the same essence, as stated by the famous equation E = mc2, where c2 acts as a conversion factor between the two, increasing the accelerator energy will give us the possibility to create particles more massive than we have ever been able to produce before.  It will also enhance the production rate of known particles – like the newly discovered boson – to better study them.

Finding new particles will tell us what else is out there. As it stands, the current theoretical model – the Standard Model of particle physics – only describes the tip of the iceberg, namely the matter that we are made of. But we already know that dark matter exists, even though scientists have absolutely no clue what kind of particles make up this strange type of matter. All we know is that it accounts for about 26% of matter in the Universe whereas regular matter is only worth 4%. The rest, that is 70% of the content of the Universe, is a form of energy called “dark energy”, which is even more mysterious and is responsible for the accelerated expansion of the Universe.

Far from being a time to rest, this long shutdown will be an intense period for everyone at the lab. Accelerator physicists, engineers and technicians will be working on all the needed upgrades and consolidations. For the LHC alone, this entails mostly opening up the interconnections between each of the machine’s 1,695 magnet cryostats and consolidating all of the 10,170 electrical junctions carrying current to these dipole and quadrupole magnets. And it goes without saying that 27 km of high technology don’t mind a bit of maintenance once in a while.

It is foreseen that the accelerator complex will come back to life in 2014, with the LHC becoming operational again in 2015.

Just about all experiments at CERN, not only those operating at the LHC but also the ones taking place at all the smaller accelerators, will be taking the opportunity for consolidations and upgrades.

Experimentalists will also take time to finalise their analyses, often after fully reprocessing all of the accumulated data with the latest calibration and reconstruction algorithms, ensuring that new results will keep coming out at a steady pace.

Last but not least, CERN will open its doors to the general public on Sunday 29 September. Here is your chance to see what keeps thousands of scientists very busy. Mark your calendar: this will be a day to remember.

Pauline Gagnon

To be alerted of new postings, follow me on Twitter: @GagnonPauline or sign-up on this mailing list to receive and e-mail notification.

  • slayerwulfe

    Ur use of language made 4 a nice read.i liked that U stated finding new discovers new. i’m anticipating that what was will change. trying to keep up with all the changes is a challenge. i’m constantly learning that some of what i’ve learned previously i may need to forget, new does not make older new obsolete but i see it as more complete. sometimes i wane poetic, please forgive.
    slayerwulfe cave


    Can you give us more information on the upcoming open house scheduled for September 29? In specific will it include tours of the Atlas and Alice? Is there a contact number, email, where we could find out more details on this event?

  • Sorry for the delay, I completely missed it.

    The exact program for CERN Open days in September is not known yet. It will be open to the public on Sunday Sept 29. The Saturday will be reserved for friends and family of people working at CERN. There will be access to the underground facilities but due to all the work going on there, access will be more limited than the last time. But I expect that all LHC experiments will be open for visits. People will need to reserve in advance for specific time slots. We will advertise it better closer to the date.

    Indeed, mark your calendar, it will be a grand day! Pauline

  • Wendy Kent

    Is there any more news on the open day in september yet as I would love to visit and need to strt looking at flights and accomodation.

  • Hello Wendy,

    the CERN Open Day will be on the weekend of September 28-29. On Saturday, it will be reserved for CERN personel’s friends and family and Sunday Sept 29 will be for the general public. Good idea to book your trip in advance. I will post on the Quantum Diaries more info in the near future but here is some info: https://cds.cern.ch/journal/CERNBulletin/2013/16/News%20Articles/1537280?ln=en

    Cheers, Pauline