The Future Circular Collider: Can It Unlock Mysteries Of The Universe?

In the early 1990s, I was lucky enough to get some time on a 60 MeV linear accelerator as part of an undergraduate lab course. Having had this experience, I can feel for the scientists at CERN who have had to make do with their current 13 TeV accelerator, which only manages energies some 200,000 times larger. So, I read with great interest when they announced the publication of the initial design concept for the Future Circular Collider (FCC), which promises collisions nearly an order of magnitude more energetic. The plan, which has been in the  works since 2014, includes three proposals for accelerators which would succeed CERN’s current big iron, the LHC.

Want to know what’s on the horizon in high-energy physics?

The Large Hadron Collider

The reigning champion in the particle-smashing world is the large hadron collider (LHC), which also happens to be at CERN. Through its 27 km circular accelerator, this collider has thus far managed to accelerate beams of protons to energies of 6.5 TeV. Two such beams rotating in opposite directions are trained on one another to produce collision energies of 13 TeV (13 x 1012 electron volts). Just for reference, those old CRT monitors and televisions we used to stare at accelerated electrons to around 20 keV (650 million times less), and still required leaded glass in the tube to shield us from the x-rays produced.

Higgs event captured by the LHC ATLAS detector. [Image: CERN]
During the nearly ten years since the LHC became operational, it has provided real insights into the mysteries of the universe. Perhaps its most notable achievement was the announcement in 2012 of the confirmation of the Higgs boson, a particle that had eluded researchers since it was first proposed in 1964. Because of its high mass, this boson required very energetic collisions to be produced, and due to its short lifetime, was very difficult to detect.

The LHC is scheduled to be operational through 2035, which is why the future circular collider is being proposed. The current accelerator just finished its second run spanning from 2015-2018, and will now be shut down for two years to increase its energy to the original design point of 14 TeV (7 per beam). During this so-called “long shutdown 2” period, the LHC will also receive luminosity upgrades, including increasing the injector brightness to get more particles in the beam. The goal is to get the refurbished collider, to eventually be known as the high-luminosity LHC (HL-LHC) operational by 2025. By increasing the brightness of the beams by a factor of 10, scientists will proportionately increase the collision rate, creating more interesting events to study.

Given the successes of the LHC, people naturally ask why we need a new, larger collider?

The Standard Model

Particles of the Standard Model (click to enlarge).
[CC-BY Carsten Burgard]

To understand the need for the FCC, it helps to take a brief tour of what we know about the building blocks that make up our universe. Our current knowledge is succinctly summed up in the so-called Standard Model, which comprises 17 particles.

The model divides the particles into two broad divisions: fermions and bosons. Fermions make up the matter in the universe, while bosons carry the forces between them. The fermions are further divided into three generations of four particles each. The first generation of matter particles contains two quarks (named up and down), the electron, and the electron neutrino. This set is enough to construct what we typically think of as matter in the universe: the up and down quarks combine to make protons and neutrons, and adding electrons allows us to make atoms as we desire. The second and third generations of matter particles are much heavier analogs of the first generation particles and very unstable; they’re only seen as a product of energetic reactions.

Of the five remaining particles, the bosons, three each carry one of the fundamental forces observed in the universe. (Gravity, the fourth observed force, is not part of the Standard Model). The gluon carries the strong force, which binds quarks into protons and neutrons, then in turn binds these into atomic nuclei. The W and Z bosons carry the weak nuclear force, causing some forms of radioactive decay. Electromagnetic force is carried by the photon, which is ultimately responsible for many of the hacks posted on these pages.

Finally, we come to the Higgs boson, which was initially viewed as an after-thought to the Standard Model. It turns out that where the particles get their intrinsic mass had been something of a mystery. Then in the 1960s, the theory of the Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism was worked out. This theory predicted the existence of what is now known as the Higgs field, which gives rise to the mass of the other particles.

Interestingly, the Higgs boson, whose existence was confirmed by the LHC in 2012, is not itself responsible for communicating mass to the other particles. Instead, the Higgs boson is merely an artifact of the Higgs field itself; given enough energy, we can create a ripple in the field – this ripple is detectable as a particle. By detecting the particle, the existence of the field itself can be inferred.

It sounds pretty well buttoned up. So, what’s left to find?

Current Mysteries

Even with the success of the Standard Model, there are a number of unanswered questions in particle physics that the new proposed collider might shed some light on.

If your head was spinning during my brief discussion of the Standard Model particles, you’re not alone. Physicists want to know why there are three generations of matter particles, and why they have such different masses. It would seem that having just the first, stable, generation would be enough to build a nice universe; why must we have the other 8 particles?

Some of the other questions surrounding the very small world of particle physics stem from observations at the largest scales of the universe. For instance, observations from deep space have shown that gravity is too weak to hold galaxies together at the rate they are rotating; they really should be tearing themselves apart. To balance the universe, physicists have predicted the existence of dark matter, which has mass, but doesn’t interact (or only weakly interacts) with photons, so is difficult to detect directly. Further evidence for the existence of dark matter comes from the gravitational lensing observed over vast stretches of space: some unaccounted for mass is bending light rays as they travel to us from the outer reaches of the universe. This bending isn’t from the dark matter interacting with the photons directly; the theory is that it can’t do that. Instead, the mass of the dark matter warps space itself, like all other mass does.

Lest you think that dark matter is a small correction to a theory that is close to correct, it’s estimated that the normal matter we experience every day accounts for only 5% of mass in the universe; dark matter is hypothesized to comprise 27%. That leaves a balance of 68%, which may belong to something called dark energy, which is believed to fill the “empty” vacuum of space. This hypothesized dark energy creates a repulsive force that explains the observed expansion rate of the universe. Both strange effects have huge consequences on massive scales, but have never been observed in the smaller realm, and the Standard Model doesn’t encompass either one. They also might be impossible to detect directly in a collider. But, if we were able to create dark matter particles with accelerators like the FCC, we could infer their presence by an energy deficit: any energy that went into their creation would “disappear” from the experiment.

While we’re on the topic, there’s the mystery of gravity itself. Gravity is amazingly weak compared to the other three forces: mystery number one. Also, no theory has every successfully combined gravity with quantum physics; it remains outside the Standard Model. Unifying the two is considered one of the many Holy Grails of physics.

Moving back to the micro scale, more mysteries await. One mystery is why we see matter in the world at all – the question of baryon asymmetry. From what we know so far, matter and antimatter should have been created in equal proportions after the Big Bang, only to subsequently annihilate each other. Instead, we live in a world full of matter, so something wasn’t exactly balanced. Observations show that the imbalance was incredibly small – something one the order of one part in a billion, but nonetheless, here we are. What caused this asymmetry that we’re so lucky to observe?

The Future Circular Collider

So, what will the new collider provide that the current LHC doesn’t? Well, the FCC is really an outline for three new colliders, each aimed at a different set of problems. One of the proposals is for a high-energy version of the LHC. This HE-LHC, as it is being called, would nearly double the current collision energy to 27 TeV with twice the luminosity planned for the HE-LHC, and would re-use the existing 27 km tunnel that currently houses the LHC.

More ambitious are the other two proposals, which would require a new 80-100 km tunnel to be excavated. The machines would come on-line serially in 2040 and 2050, costing $10.2 billion and $17 billion. $5.6 billion of that is allocated just for digging the new tunnel, but the number may be premature: Elon Musk has already tweeted that his Boring Company could save CERN “several billion euros” on construction. This tunnel would house both the FCC-ee, an electron-positron collider, and the FCC-hh, a new proton-proton colliding machine.

The FCC-ee, with a proposed 90-350 GeV energy would be used to measure the properties of the Z, W, and Higgs bosons with greater accuracy. It could also greatly improve measurements of strong interactions and properties of the massive top quark. The FCC-hh, on the other hand, is essentially an LHC on steroids, with a target collision energy of 100 TeV, more than seven times that of the LHC. It would also increase luminosity by a factor of 50, producing that many more interactions to detect and study.

One of the goals of these new machines is improved accuracy in measurements of parameters of known particles. These improved measurements would allow detection of small deviations from the Standard Model, which could lead to new areas to explore. Then, of course, there’s the possibility of the most exciting thing in science: finding something you didn’t expect.

Advances in superconductors are one of the many practical offshoots of the proposed FCC. [Image: CERN]
But beyond the new understanding of our universe that may come, large, ambitious projects like the FCC inevitably lead to innovations in other fields some might consider more practical. Like the LHC before it, the FCC will require new developments in high-field magnets, superconductors, materials, vacuum and refrigeration technologies, electronics, and large-scale computing. These innovations will spill over into other fields, improving our engineering knowledge.

The price tag for the new proposal sounds pretty high, but CERN estimates that society will receive $1.30 in value for each $1 invested. Luckily, there are no conservation laws in finance.

88 thoughts on “The Future Circular Collider: Can It Unlock Mysteries Of The Universe?

  1. An article on the Future Circular Collider in a recent “New Scientist” magazine attacked this as a waste of money, because – unlike the LHC with the Higgs Boson – they don’t really known of anything they’re going to find at these energies. Current theories suggest that the interesting stuff happens at the Planck energy, which we can never reach with machines like that. It is twenty thousand million euros of “let’s see what happens”. And if nothing happens, do we build an even bigger one?
    https://www.newscientist.com/article/2191144-why-cerns-plans-for-a-e20-billion-supersized-collider-are-a-bad-idea/

    1. I have to say, I completely agree. There’s diminishing returns for what is really phenomenal cost that could otherwise benefit thousands of peoples lives. The cry “for science!” is only really valid if it benefits everyone – not just so a select few can test the theory-du-jour, Unless there are some new theories that can actually be tested experimentally (unlike, MOND, supersymmetry, string theory etc..), then any “bigger, better!” kit doesn’t really have any real purpose.

      1. One of the remarkable things about blue sky scientific research on this scale is that it always benefits everyone. There have been myriad benefits out of the LHC beyond finding the Higgs Boson. Just paying people to solve the technical challenges inherent in the construction of the machine is benefit to everyone.

        1. Quick search on wiki says that military spending of EU countries per year is 192bln euros (192 535 000 000 EUR) so it would be 10% of that? Building of a such massive device would surely be done over at least 10 years, so it would go to what. cutting military budget by 1%

          1. 20 billion would complete the Wendelstein fusion reactor program years ahead of schedule, and build the Skylon space plane, with money left over, to name two things that could be done instead.

          2. Or better still, scrap the military budget and fund the thing off corporate investment. I feel that that could have a lot of positives, as it means that each investor will be really seeking returns, rather than it being a feel good cheque from the government, organised by politicians to promote themselves.

        2. >” it always benefits everyone”

          I’d like to have a bag of salt with that, please. You might as well argue that if we started breaking enough windows, the technical challenge itself would surely create something useful enough to justify the waste.

          1. Practically a tautology, “if you build it, useful results will come”. I like science and engineering as much as the next geek, but I like efficiency too and directing money, “just because” isn’t the best exercise of that.

          2. I stand by that assertion. Although I’d prefer that people see what I meant by ‘it’, i.e. ‘blue sky scientific research on this scale’.
            If you could come up with a way “breaking enough windows” fulfils those criteria I’ll be impressed.

          3. >”If you could come up with a way “breaking enough windows” fulfils those criteria I’ll be impressed.”

            But surely funding the research to find how many windows you have to break to benefit mankind should be funded, because by definition the aim of the program is to find exactly what is enough and then break them, which means you are guaranteed results – all you need is the ambition to fund it.

            It works on the exact same principle. You’re already assuming that social and economic benefits will follow from spending money on an aimless project that is so ambitious that it requires new technologies and sciences to be developed just to find out that it doesn’t do anything. By that token, the project itself can be literally anything, whether it’s building the biggest particle accelerator, or simply breaking enough windows.

          4. >”What about a detailed quantified economic analysis?”

            The problem is that anything they can identify now as a real future benefit of the project -could- be developed without this excuse. If it’s really useful, why not fund it directly? Skip the part where you’re building a huge accelerator for nothing and fund even more useful science with the money you save.

            All the rest is wishful thinking mixed with the broken windows fallacy.

        3. I don’t doubt the innovations created whilst working on such large projects can filter down to real-world applications, I would like examples of the “myriad benefits”. I googled, but couldn’t find anything specific – perhaps it takes time for the practical innovations to be adopted. But simply saying “yeah but it’s created stuff!” doesn’t really answer the question.

          I didn’t claim it didn’t provide any benefit, just that given the cost the money could of *greater* benefit elsewhere. The LHC cost $13.25 billion. And is about $1 billion a year. This new one is apparently $20 billion, has no clear goals, and won’t be powerful enough to provide evidence for or against theories beyond the standard model.

          1. I’m sorry, you just exploded my brain with irony. You literally just used one of the myriad benefits of CERN to look for the benefits of CERN and couldn’t find it.

          2. Systemantics, third edition (John Gall)
            Chapter 9, Delusion Systems vs Systems Delusions:

            “1. Manager’s mirage. The belief that some event (usually called an “outcome”) was actually caused by the operation of the System. Examples:

            – The public school system is obviously responsible for the literary works of Faulkner, Hemingway, and Arthur Miller, since it taught them to write.
            – The NIH is clearly responsible for (and has actually claimed credit for) the major biomedical advances of the past generation, since it funded the research.

            We generalize:

            THE SYSTEM TAKES THE CREDIT (FOR ANY FAVORABLE EVENTUALITY)”

          3. Quote from Systemantics by John Gall:

            Managers’ mirage: the belief that some event (usually called an “outcome”) was actually caused by the operation of the system. Examples: The public school system is obviously responsible for the literary works of Faulkner, Hemingway, and Arthur Miller, since it taught them to write. Similarly, the NIH is clearly responsible for (and has actually claimed credit for) the major biomedical advances of the past generation, since it funded the research. We generalize: the system takes the credit (for any favorable eventuality).

          4. Oops, I thought I got caught by auto-moderation with the last one so I posted it twice. Anyhow. The next quote from the same page also applies:

            “Manager’s mania: The preceding delusion, if unchallenged, rapidly escalates into an even more grandiose conviction, as exemplified in the dictum: “What’s good for General Motors is good for the country.””

            And that part is what’s most important here. The people who propose funding the bigger collider think that benefits automatically follow, because they’re under the delusion that the spin-off technologies and economic kickbacks have anything to do with what they’re actually trying to do – they just take credit like people give credit to NASA and the moon program for tang and velcro – and so they fall under the Manager’s Mania.

          5. I can’t reply to pat so I’ll reply to my own post.

            >”I’m sorry, you just exploded my brain with irony. You literally just used one of the myriad benefits of CERN to look for the benefits of CERN and couldn’t find it.”

            I didn’t say CERN, I was asking about the “myriad benefits” that came from the LHC. I’m aware the internet as we know it was the result of CERN scientists sharing information. Lets not confuse CERN labs where LOTS of experiments are run, and the LHC specifically.

          6. >”I’m aware the internet as we know it was the result of CERN scientists sharing information.”

            But did it occur because of CERN, or by coincidence to CERN? That’s the Manager’s Mirage, and leads to the magical thinking that you can make beneficial things happen by replicating the circumstances in which they previously happened. (Better known as Cargo Cult planning)

          7. “I didn’t say CERN, I was asking about the “myriad benefits” that came from the LHC. I’m aware the internet as we know it was the result of CERN scientists sharing information. Lets not confuse CERN labs where LOTS of experiments are run, and the LHC specifically.”

            You can’t calculate *direct* benefits from the LHC because it’s pure science – only *indirect* benefits. The reason why the Manager’s Mirage doesn’t always work with science is that sometimes the incentive *is* responsible for a secondary benefit because people work harder when they’re interested in the result. You’re fully welcome to believe that Berners-Lee could’ve come up with the ideas behind the Web while figuring out communication between different McDonald’s franchises, and I’m fully welcome to believe he needed somewhere to work where he actually wanted to work.

          8. >” You’re fully welcome to believe that Berners-Lee could’ve come up with the ideas behind the Web while figuring out communication between different McDonald’s franchises

            That’s still the same mirage at work: system takes credit for something that would have happened anyways. People were kicking around ideas of hyperlinked and networked computing all the way back, and he was just one guy who happened to make an implementation of it. If it hadn’t been him, it would have been someone else, somewhere else, in a slightly different yet practically equal format.

            Kinda like how people give the US military the credit for inventing the Internet, even though computers were being cross-linked in various ways anyhow, and other protocols such as FidoNet existed and were widely in use.

          9. Maybe I’m missing a message here, but my initial question was for examples of “myriad benefits” from the LHC. Not CERN labs, not the peripheral “science”. Whilst I agree it can be difficult to nail down specific examples as many “real world benefits” have trickled down, I didn’t claim otherwise. But even indirect examples will do. You haven’t actually provided any. Again I’m not suggesting there aren’t any, but telling me you can’t work out any benefits is as good as saying there aren’t any (I’m sure there are!). Its amazing how often people will argue there point but refuse to come out with anything concrete.

    2. I definitely prefer international scientists peacefully “wasting” money on science over continuously needing to watch rising expenses for future wars.

      In his noodly name: Pasta & Ramen!

      1. But I don’t. Many EU-countries have neglegted defense forces, mine certainly does. So as an inhabitant of the largest nett per capita paying country of the EU I object. You want it? You pay for it. But keep your crazy pasta-hands off my taxes please.

    3. Looking in the book Tunnel Visions I see a handy chart of “Phenomena at the TeV mass scale”. At 40 TeV the SSC, if completed would have been sufficient to investigate the internal structure of the Quark and Lepton. That seems like a compelling enough reason to build the FCC.

      Unfortunately, the link you posted is behind a paywall.

    4. Anyone who insist that this is a waste of time and/or money don’t understand the connection between obtaining the knowledge, and later on, applying such knowledge to create a product for which to make a profit.

      A good example is the radiation known as “radio waves” aka. electromagnetism.
      The name “radio waves” came AFTER applying the knowledge to create the “radio”.

      You have to thanks James Clerk Maxwell for making the scientific mathematical prediction, on how this radiation behave, to Heinrich Hertz for creating the experiment to prove it, and Guglielmo Marconi for applying such knowledge into a product that transmitted the waves across the Atlantic Ocean.

      What I described above is the transition from a theory to a tangible product which is used on regular basis on these days.

      Therefore, I will disagree with Miss Sabine Hossenfelderon on her article. The question here is what can we learn with the collider and what can we learn with the experience of creating and utilized the collider.

    5. Agree. And what is the “cost” of waiting until they can build one in space: out beyond Neptune where the whole thing can be run at superconducting temperatures and it can be as big as they want, and with no vacuum pumps. And no radioactive concrete or bedrock, etc. etc. I know, you are thinking they will discover the Warp Drive and inertialess impulse engines, and perfect shielding and “shields”. No. No tractor beams. Get used to it.

  2. “but the number may be premature: Elon Musk has already tweeted that his Boring Company could save CERN “several billion euros” on construction.”

    And you lost me. If you look into the numbers of digging the tunnel for cars which he already did you will find… no improvement over traditional digging methods. He dug a much smaller tunnel that was much narrower and amazingly that’s cheaper.

    Otherwise cool article.

    1. To be fair Elon does like to troll quite often – its amazing how often people take his tweets seriously. With that said, it isn’t helpful, he’s quickly becoming a Trump – just throwing out laughable claims to get reactions.

      1. The worrying bit is that he might take himself seriously – otherwise he’s clearly evil and abusing the gullible for money.

        But Musk does have his theory/principle of First Principles Thinking, which in short means taking the simplest available facts and figures at face value and making your business case on that.

        If a square peg has a cross-section area of A, and a round hole has equally an area of A, first principles thinking dictates that they should fit together because A fits A. The necessary modifications to the square peg and round hole aren’t taken into account. Those are secondary concerns that can be worked out after the funding is secured.

      2. But there lies the problem, his trolling is not like our trolling. His trolling ruins the trust that people have in him and as a business leader it makes everything else he says with respect to his businesses suspect. He really should have understood the finer points of this when it put his ability to control Tesla at risk.

        I for one respect the money he has invested in space exploration and electric vehicles, but he has lost any trust that i may have in his words. His ego is starting to write checks that cant be cashed, starting with the hyper-loop and continuing on to some of his other ideas. He has even started to get to the point where he is contradicting himself, the most prominent example being VTOL “taxis” which he originally stated were not feasible but is now investing in.

        1. All his checks are uncashed. None of the promises he made actually came true – people just shifted the goalposts between the initial promise and the actual outcome.

          Musk doesn’t care. He’s already a billionaire. If it’s stupid but it works, it’s not stupid.

          1. What, you mean like the Australian battery storage system, that came in on time (admittedly you need to move the goal posts slightly, placing the starting point at when the actual order was placed – but then expecting Tesla to build it WITHOUT any guarantee that someone will pay for it is unreasonable) and payed for its self in less than a year (it seems that battery systems are very good at load balancing an AC grid, and there’s a lot of money to be made in the instant response to demand market)?
            Or the Falcon 9, that had a few hiccups, but is now the cheapest way of getting a medium size load to orbit, and if you bolt three together is the heaviest lifter in production?

          2. Australia has massive arbitrage issues due to a completely fucked up privatization scheme, look at how the costs (and energy company profits) spiraled during the recent blackout. Yes, batteries can make very quickly make money within that utterly fucked up environment, but it’s not because their merit in a sanely designed system.

            Anyone who had build a natural gas plant would have made their money back too, but they languish for years in regulatory hell … while greenwashed arbitrage (ab)users can get greenlit fast.

    1. Not quite, but the LHC IS being used as an injector stage with transfer tunnels running between the 2 loops. As far as I can understand (I’m not a particle physicist) You can’t put them exactly tangentially and just join them together because then the particle stream has to “jump” from one radius into the other, which requires lots of energy and distorts the beam. You need a smoother transition. So by offsetting it and using long transfer section, they can make the transition much smoother by going from one radius smoothly to the next one. The final positioning of the 100km circle will probably also depend on an exhaustive geological survey to ensure it doesn’t run straight through a fault line or other unsuitable terrain.

  3. “Interestingly, the Higgs boson, whose existence was confirmed by the LHC in 2012, is not itself responsible for communicating mass to the other particles. Instead, the Higgs boson is merely an artifact of the Higgs field itself; given enough energy, we can create a ripple in the field – this ripple is detectable as a particle.”

    That’s a silly distinction: all particles are just excitations of underlying fields. That’s the way quantum field theory works. You’re trying to make a distinction between a propagating excitation in the field and the underlying interactions of the field itself, which doesn’t make sense. The propagating mode isn’t an “artifact” of the Higgs field – you can’t have one without the other.

  4. People forget that the LHC was made to explore Higgs.

    What is this for? Spend the money where it matters moon staging base.

    AFAIK nothing interested is expected that the energies this will attain. AFAIK. Ofcourse something interesting might happen and that would itself be very interesting but that’s not the issue here. The issue is spending money with no specific goal in mind. Nearly 20 Bil Euro could do a lot.

    1. Yeah, no.

      It’s a general purpose hadron accelerator. If you wanted to build a Higgs-specific accelerator, you don’t build LHC. Why would you? The Higgs is only like ~125 GeV, whereas the LHC’s energy reach is 100 times that. If you really want to probe the Higgs, you design a Higgs factory, like the circular electron/positron collider that China’s thinking about or the International Linear Collider.

      “AFAIK nothing interested is expected that the energies this will attain.”

      Depends what you mean by “expected.” Technically, nothing interesting is expected at the energies the LHC probes, either. You might say “supersymmetry!” (which of course is what everyone is hoping the LHC discovers) but there’s zero physical evidence for supersymmetry, so again, technically, nothing interesting is expected.

      There are tons of *theoretical* possibilities for stuff at LHC, but of course there’s tons of theoretical possibilities beyond LHC too. They aren’t as popular because theorists don’t often make predictions for things that can’t be tested. Give them a way to test it, and they’ll come up with possibilities.

      “The issue is spending money with no specific goal in mind. Nearly 20 Bil Euro could do a lot.”

      Look, this is very long-range planning. It’s not like they’re asking people to cut a check for $20B euro right now. The spending is basically on par with just continuing the pace at which money’s currently being spent for particle physics research, with maybe a bit of an increase. It’s just a general purpose research program, and those tend to have high rate of return on investment anyway.

      1. >” It’s not like they’re asking people to cut a check for $20B euro right now. ”

        No, but it’s exactly like asking them to sign up to a magazine subscription that costs them $20 billion in the end, and that’s a huge commitment.

        “We figured out how to make nuclear power safe, all we need is… – Sorry, I’m already signed up for $20 billion for this particle accelerator, so you’ll have to go ask someone else for the money.”

        1. “No, but it’s exactly like asking them to sign up to a magazine subscription that costs them $20 billion in the end, and that’s a huge commitment.”

          No, it really isn’t a huge commitment. It’s well below the LHC, and if the US would get involved early it’s *definitely* below the LHC + initial SSC + tevatron upgrade cost. Part of the benefit of the LHC was that it was a more coherent international strategy than before, but it still wasn’t perfect – again, the SSC was a massive waste of dollars because nothing got built.

          This is literally a 30-year strategy. With smart planning and cost targeting you can easily control that to make it the *actual* price. LHC, for instance, was actually really well cost controlled, with only a 20% or so cost overrun and a 4-5 year slip in schedule (with most of the schedule slip due to failures in testing). Compare that to JWST, which is at, oh, 1000% cost overrun and an 11-year slip and counting? Or ITER, which is at 400% cost overrun and a 10-year slip and counting?

          ““We figured out how to make nuclear power safe, all we need is… ”

          Oh, that’s totally a red herring. There’s no experiment or plan out there that would magically make nuclear power safe, economic and easy to deal with if you just threw money at it. No one knows how to do it. We *do* know how to build a collider this large. It’s entirely different. I mean, if you’re going to complain about massively expensive things being built with questionable science and economic return, almost every single space project falls under that category.

          Besides, the cost here, again, is almost entirely pointless. It’s not like you go to the Collider Super-Mart and pick it off the shelf. If you think $20B is too much, whatever, fine, cap it at $10B and you figure out how to maximize the science out of that. The entire point here is to keep the sector of high-energy physics going and figure out what’s needed. And the best way to do that and keep costs controlled is to plan long-term.

          I mean, jeez, if you’re comparing it to future nuclear power stuff, the long-term planning for fusion research looks exactly the same as this (on similar price scales, mind you), and you’ve got the exact same uncertainty in terms of return.

          1. >”Oh, that’s totally a red herring. There’s no…”

            You’re answering past the point, and it’s you making red herrings by comparing this thing to other massive boondoggles. The point is that it doesn’t matter if you have to pay $20 billion now or in the future: you have to balance out your checkbook in the end, so you can’t spend beyond your means.

            Saying “Oh, it’s going to be spread out over 30 years” is irrelevant in the same sense as saying “Oh, I can totally afford this million dollar supercar – I just have to pay it over the next 30 years”. Yes you can, but there’s a whole lot of other things you could be using the money for, like paying the house.

    1. You need a country with a constitution that says the purpose of the government is to put physics grad students first. Second can be hunting for Nessie, Bigfoot, unicorns, and UFO’s. What would be next? Maybe it supplies the protest signs when you are invaded. (But you don’t have modern electronics or space flight or any of that.)

      1. To put that into perspective: The EU has 512,6 Mio inhabitants ( https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-d&q=eu+einwohner ) plus 8 Mio Swiss that will also contribute
        So 20 billion € /520.6 Mio inhabitants = 38.4 Eur per person. Over 10 years that’s two cups of coffee per person per year.
        From your comments I gather that you are German…
        So, according to http://fap-dep.web.cern.ch/rpc/2019-annual-contributions-cern-budget
        Country Percent Contribution [CHF]
        Germany 20.64020 236’015’150
        Switzerland 4.12037 47’115’300

        Germany pays a bit less than 3 CHF/capita and Switzerland a bit more than 5 CHF/capita per year.

        For that money I don’t worry if Switzerland can buy half an F35 less per year :D
        ( https://www.defensenews.com/air/2018/09/28/f-35-price-falls-before-90m-for-first-time-ever-in-new-deal/ )

  5. I think there are hard lessons yet to be learned from the demise of the Superconducting Super Collider and “the revenge of the B students.”

    Heck, I wasn’t even a B student, though I hope the thing gets built! My expectation is that within the years of data collected (and yet to be analyzed) from LHC experiments there are discoveries and new questions that justify a bigger and better science toy.

  6. Im not sure accelerated industrialism from new technology is the most pressing need. What would be more useful is a global migration away from fossil fuels, without delay. Cover the sahara desert and all waste land with solar panels, and wind turbines, convert all container ships to electric, eliminate oil from products where possible, i.e. replacing plastic with wood and glass. The ideal would be enough renewable energy production to sequester atmospheric carbon production from non carbon neutral countries as well as subsidised carbon neutral powerplants offered to entice polluters away from fossil fuels.

    1. Then we get hit by an asteroid or one of the super-volcanoes blows and it was all for naught. Though I was looking forward to the incredible amount of land in the north becoming livable. You kooks are going to ruin the whole deal.

    2. What sort of electric bill does a super collider carry anyway? Somehow don’t think a couple of acres of solar panels would quite do the job. I really do like solar though, creates jobs, career opportunities. More panels, mean the need for more people to go out and scrap off the bird crap daily. The desert and wastelands are poor choices, too much dust, sand storms would do a lot of costly damage. Besides, we’ll need the land to grow food and fuel, as CO2 levels drop, so will the yield of our crops, meaning we need more acres to farm, because each plant is less productive. Oh, but more plants, will just continue to deplete the need CO2, at an alarming rate. Think if we quit focusing on eliminating CO2, and make better use of it, we’d be much better off. Plants really like high levels of CO2 (1200 to 2000 ppm), and a warmer climate as well. Oil is the base of many products, doubt we could eliminate the use of petroleum entirely. What would use in our 3d printers? PLA is great for keychains, but it’s not the best for more useful things. Then again, you can print as many replacement part as you need, rather than just do one that will last.,,

  7. So this:

    https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/1/22/18192281/cern-large-hadron-collider-future-circular-collider-physics

    Says this:

    “The group released its conceptual design report earlier this month; the proposed collider, called the Future Circular Collider, would be more than 60 miles in circumference, cost more than €20 billion ($22 billion), and be completed around 2050.”

    Pfffft… $22 billion. I say we build a really tall LINEAR accelerator across the entire length of the U.S. southern border. It can serve two purposes at once.

    1. Judging by other big projects, $20 billion now = $500 billion minimum before it is abandoned unfinished. And in the US it would have to include low cost housing for 50,000+ people and art projects equal to 2% of the budget. The environmental mitigation with the number of trees planted, logs chained to the ground, and swamps constructed would double the cost at least.

      1. Hardly.

        Cost overruns for stuff like this almost always come from poor planning due to having to switch designs or plans midstream (usually due to a projected lack of funding, ha) or the original commitment being half-assed anyway. The LHC, for instance, overran because right at the beginning, CERN got hit with an overall budget cut, so you had a new project starting up at the same time that personnel and pay had to be cut. The short-term savings resulted in higher long-term costs. Shock, I know.

        The LHC only overran construction cost by something like 20-30% or so. CERN’s got a pretty good reputation for keeping costs relatively controlled. Bit different than certain projects in the US.

  8. Its in my humble opinion, whoever insist that the creation of the Circular Collider is a waste of time and/or money, do not understand the connection between obtaining knowledge, and later on applying such knowledge, to create products for which to make a profit.

    A good example is the radiation known as “radio waves” aka. electromagnetism. The name “radio waves” came AFTER applying the knowledge to create the “radio”.

    You have to thanks James Clerk Maxwell for making the scientific mathematical prediction, on how this radiation behave, to Heinrich Hertz for creating the experiment to prove it, and Guglielmo Marconi for applying such knowledge into a product which transmitted the first waves across the Atlantic Ocean.

    What I described above is the transition from a theory to tangible products, used commonly on these days.

    Therefore, I will disagree with such opinion. I believe a better question here is what we can learn with the collider, plus what can we learn from creating and utilizing such collider.

    1. But should I be forced to pay for your opinion? I don’t care for even larger colliders, there are other matters I consider more important. So, not from my taxes, please. If, however, you want it so bad: go ahead and send a check their way!

      1. Welcome to the democratic system. I think you’ll find that it results in things that you don’t want and aren’t prepared to pay for, but the majority do. You either suck it up or move country (and Americans have to change nationality even, given their country insists on taxing them even when living abroad).

    2. The laser is a first device that come to mind, as something that was considered interesting at the time of its creation, but with few practical uses. Or the maser (at the heart of the latest generation of GPS satellites), considered to violate Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and hence could not work. A scientific curiosity, with few practical uses. It may take 50 to a thousand years before we find practical uses from anything discovered in the pursuit of pure research. But if history is anything to go on then the practical rewards have always worth the funding.

      1. You forget that the laser was basically developed as a byproduct of testing Einstein’s theories about stimulated emissions of light. It was a byproduct of research, not something that was researched/developed for “just because it’s interesting”.

        The people involved were trying to make things like microwave amplifiers by using the stimulated emission effect, and they stumbled upon the optical laser. It wasn’t a thing they thought of as, “Hey, let’s develop this highly theoretical thing we hardly understand, that has no apparent use, just because it’s interesting. We’ll call it… LASER”.

        1. Do you not see the parallel there?
          The laser was a product of researching the theory of relativity.
          The LHC is (and the FCC will be) products of researching the Standard Model of physics.
          You don’t see the link?

          Things spin off a theoretical research project. Companies will pay for applied research (how do you build a better widget), but pure research with no goal than to extend the bounds of human knowledge has to be funded by the state. Many of the things we take for granted today are spin-offs from R&D done for things the private sector wouldn’t have touched with a barge poll.

  9. “This HE-LHC, as it is being called, would nearly double the current collision energy to 27 TeV with twice the luminosity planned for the HE-LHC” — sounds like the HE-LHC is a paradox; it has twice the luminosity of itself…

  10. My main concern about all these high dollar research projects, is they don’t address any of our more pressing issues, that need to be resolved. We should get our priorities straight, get our house in order, before spending the time, money, and resources on ‘fun’ projects, that may, or may not produce anything useful. If it was privately fund, I could at least just shake my head, but these kinds of projects are taxpayer funded. Most of those taxpayers are working hard, just to get by, and won’t see any benefit, or understand the significance. Even though Trump’s border wall isn’t likely to be real effective, it’s more likely to produce some useful results, and adding some technology to plug the holes, should help. What do you do with a $22 billion research toy, after you’ve learned all you set out to learn with it? Plan on a bigger and more powerful toy? Of course once built, and pretty much done all that was planned, you sort of still need to keep playing with it, to justify the initial cost, or risk losing any never-ending funding, or more money for future projects. The $22 billion, is just to build it, it’s not going to be cheap to operate or staff, for the life of the project. Regardless, of what’s learn from spending that money, a lot more money will need to be spent, to develop anything of use or value from that knowledge. We have a lot of people that need to be fed, illness that need cured, Injuries to heal, Environment to clean up. Energy demands to meet. Guess this is what socialism is all about. The laborers work hard, and struggle to survive, while the elitist get to play, because the might discover something more interesting, and costly to play with…

    1. There’s the rub. Your priorities and your “we” and “us” is not the same as the next human’s. It is easier to get agreement on research projects if the cool factor is high enough.

      It is like the American Peace Core kid with a Shelby Mustang back home, on a post in Central Africa and lecturing the locals on how they need to use “appropriate” technology, like a water bucket with a handle so they can roll it 2 miles to the well instead of carrying it on their head. (And they can imagine owning a car while they make the trek). Your priorities may vary.

  11. While I absolutely support this research, I have to question the wisdom of the location. Geologically, that seems like the world’s most awkward and expensive place to build such a thing.

    If Texas (which would’ve really been an ideal site for the SSC) is politically unpopular with Europeans, perhaps Australia would be suitable? There’s plenty of open flat area where rings of that scale, and even larger, could be built without a massive amount of tunneling through mountains.

    1. The cost of the display are negligible in comparison to the measurement hardware with GHz bandwidth. So it’s good that the scopes have a user interface built in. The HDMI output is there anyway.

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