The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is getting a big boost to its performance. Unfortunately, for fans of ground-breaking physics, the whole thing has to be shut down for two years while the work is done. But once it’s back up and running, its enhanced capabilities will make it even more powerful.
There was a huge amount of excitement when the Higgs boson was first spotted back in 2012 – a discovery that bagged the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2013. The particle completed the so-called standard model, our current best theory of understanding nature at the level of particles.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, physicists began to probe deep into the nature of matter and energy. In so doing, they quickly realized that the rules which govern them become increasingly blurry the deeper one goes. Whereas the predominant theory used to be that all matter was made up of indivisible atoms, scientists began to realize that atoms are themselves composed of even smaller particles.
In December, the ATLAS and CMS experiments presented a sneak peek of the new data collected during the first few months of the Large Hadron Collider’s enormously energetic second run. Both experiments reported a small excess of photon pairs with a combined mass around 750 GeV. This small excess could be the first hint of a new massive particle that spits out two photons as it decays, or it might be a coincidental fluctuation that will disappear with more information.