Cosmic research 'Dream Machine' mooted

2011-10-04 08:23

Geneva - Top international physicists on Monday met to discuss how to push forward construction of a "dream machine" - a vast, multi-billion dollar particle smasher that would take cosmic research into a new era.

Gathering for four days at Cern near Geneva, scientists and heads of major research centres around the globe are looking at how to combine resources and funding for the project, the International Linear Collider (ILC).

"The science of particle physics has reached a decisive moment. Experiments at particle accelerators, together with observations of the cosmos, bring unprecedented opportunities for discovery," a statement from the organisers said.

The meeting comes on the heels of the closure last Friday after 26 years in operation of the world's first major accelerator, the US Fermilab's Tevatron, leaving Cern's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) alone to carry the baton.

But scientists have long known that to fully explore many small hints picked up by the mighty LHC of what they dub "worlds beyond worlds" in the makeup of the cosmos, another type of machine would be needed.


The new collider is set to be a "linac" or straight-path machine, unlike the LHC which swings particles around an oval-shaped 26km underground tunnel to get them to all but the speed of light before smashing them together.

But it would still, its designers say, like the LHC, create billions of miniature simulations of the "Big Bang" 13.7 billion years ago which brought the universe into being.

And because it would be smashing together electron particles and their negative energy counterparts, positrons, it would, scientists working on the project say, provide results with extraordinary, telescope-like precision.

The ILC was formally launched with the appointment of a design team in 2005, and that group is due to report by the end of next year, with the outline plan that construction could get under way within the following five to eight years.

But there are looming doubts over how it will be financed, even as a joint project backed by many countries.

The International Committee for Future Accelerators, or ICFA, which organised this week's gathering at Cern, a 20-nation European enterprise now aiming to draw in countries from other continents, is the midwife of the ILC.

ICFA, linking specialists from Asia, Europe and North America, was itself set up in 1976 to ease international collaboration for the building and use of high-energy physics accelerators.


However, costs for the new collider, which were originally estimated at around $6bn in 2007, are understood to have soared since then and another global financial crisis could bring more problems.

Still to be decided is where it would be built. The US is unlikely - although government science officials have said they could take up to 25% of the cost - and European governments are also cash-strapped.

Japan made clear in September it is keen, and officials and particle physicists have earmarked two possible locations, saying the ILC could provide the centre for a new "science city" providing hundreds of jobs.

Other candidates to host it include China and Russia, which both have long traditions of particle research.

  • Jacques W - 2011-10-04 08:36

    Build it in South Africa! Julius' engineering company should land the contract..

      CaptainK - 2011-10-04 09:05

      I think Cumraid "Juju" Mal-Enema would do a sterling job of it... Fatboy was made when his father had a BIG bang in the bush ;D

  • mik - 2011-10-04 08:41

    And I am sure the 'big bang' gave them all this knowledge too. Ha, Ha, Ha

      TheGoat - 2011-10-04 08:58

      yeah as opposed to a collection of fairy tales from bronze age goat herders hey ?

  • Fredster69 - 2011-10-04 09:10

    Billions of Dollars trying to create someting that was never there...

      TheGoat - 2011-10-04 09:13

      Billions of Dollars and millions of hours and lives wasted praying to something that was never there. Yep Fred religion really is retarded isnt it?

      Travis Vermaak - 2011-10-04 11:46

      Willing to bet religion has cost more money, wasted man hours and lives than any science experiment.

      Martin du Plessis - 2011-10-08 10:47

      Well, it HAS prob been operating for around 10 000 years now. And science as we know it now, what, only a few hundred?

  • IC1 - 2011-10-04 09:25

    Build it in the Karoo near the site for the SKA, that way we can have a more significant role in the field of Science going forward, create jobs and further education for the people of the region. As a by-product/benefit, it would put a halt to the corrupt Petrosa and energy and minerals ministers deal with likes of Shell for the "Fracking" agenda they trying to get past.

      daaivark - 2011-10-04 09:36

      An interesting thought, but if one considers the costs involved..... South Africans are battling enough without taking on another cash burden.

      AntonioP - 2011-10-04 11:52

      Seems a great idea, to have it here. 'Till they find out what masses of copper wire are in it. Forget about it....

      Travis Vermaak - 2011-10-04 12:30

      @Antonio ROFL

  • Dave - 2011-10-04 11:10

    Add a soccer pitch to the proposal and SA will gladly build it with taxpayer money.

  • AntonioP - 2011-10-04 11:46

    Why spent exorbitant amounts on a particle destroyer? I'll give the particles to my former gardener. He is guaranteed to break anything, in no time.

      Travis Vermaak - 2011-10-04 12:43

      ROFL again...haha you killing me

  • Zion - 2011-10-08 10:00

    So this thing is going to collide atoms and particles and whatnot. And it is going to cost billions. Let it be built in Zimbabwe then it will cost Terra-Rand. where I stay there are many defunct and derelict mines. Some have their processing plants still standing and functional. The equipment inside is ideal for colliding atoms and stuff. In fact it collides moer-of-a-stones so that gold can come out of them. We called them crushers.

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