Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is in the news again. Located on the French/Swiss border, the world’s most powerful particle accelerator promises to help scientists understand why things have mass, elucidate the nature of dark matter, and maybe even determine whether dimensions beyond the three familiar ones exist. The LHC is poised to start operations—and hopefully give us greater insight into the wonderful creation we call the universe.
But not everyone exhibits such hope. A recent article in the New York Times advances an argument that the scale, cost, length of construction time, and problems encountered may lead to an abandonment of the project. In a separate commentary, a prominent Christian figure implies that the pursuit of projects as ambitious as the LHC are doomed to failure, like those early human endeavors to build the tower of Babel.
I do not share their pessimism. Sure the LHC has encountered substantial problems, but that should be expected for a machine this complicated. In fact, Fermilab’s Tevatron—another powerful accelerator built to find the top quark—encountered a similar set of problems, particularly after its upgrade. It took a number of years for the Tevatron to reach its design goals, but it did find the top quark as planned.
I expect that within the next three years, the LHC data will reveal the elusive Higg’s boson. First proposed forty years ago, the existence of the Higg’s would help explain why the fundamental particles (like the up quark and electron) have the masses they do. And, like almost every major new detector built, the LHC will produce a number of unexpected results that will provide direction for future research.
The universe exhibits numerous life-essential attributes that resulted from the first few minutes of its development. The energies explored in the LHC help scientists understand in more detail how these attributes arose as the universe cooled from the big bang creation event. Perhaps the most important reason to persevere through the current troubles is that the LHC will demonstrate even more clearly the care God took in making sure this creation would support humanity.