China is planning on building a supercollider that will be twice as large as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland and much more powerful. However, some scientists are concerned that the project could end up causing an apocalypse.
“The collider will have a circumference of 100 kilometers, with a center-mass energy up to 240 giga electron-volts, both setting a world record,” Wang Yifang, Director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of High Energy Physics in Beijing, said to The Global Times.
The Circular Electron-Positron Collider (CEPC) was designed in collaboration with scientists from the U.S., Japan, and Europe, who will also be participating in its construction and operation. To extend the CEPC’s service life, it has been suggested that the project be upgraded into a proton collider by 2040. Doing so will result in the CEPC reaching a center-mass energy of 100 tera electron-volts. This would make the collider seven times more powerful than the one in Switzerland.
The CEPC is expected to provide light at a million electron-volt power. This will ensure the creation of some of the most advanced conditions necessary for researching nuclear physics and new materials. The collider will reportedly be capable of producing millions of Higgs boson particles, which will help scientists shed more light on the mysteries of the universe.
“An electron-positron machine can make much cleaner measurements than a proton collider like the LHC, as its collisions do not produce as much debris. The CEPC will, therefore, allow the Higgs boson to be studied in unprecedented detail,” according to Physics World.
In September, the conceptual design of the CEPC passed the rigorous international examinations. Scientists have begun developing the prototypes of the key components involved in establishing the collider. Construction is expected to start in 2021, with a proposed launch date of 2030. The project is estimated to cost US$5.05 billion.
The risk involved
Despite the immense possibilities promised by the CEPC, many scientists are worried about the great risk that comes with it. Since the machine will smash together particles with a far greater force and energy than CERN’s LHC, there is a possibility that a phase transition might occur that could tear up the fabric of space.
Quarks could re-assemble themselves into compressed objects called strangelets. “That in itself would be harmless. However, under some hypotheses, a strangelet could, by contagion, convert anything else it encounters into a new form of matter, transforming the entire Earth in a hyperdense sphere about one hundred meters across,” astrophysicist Martin Rees said to Daily Galaxy.
There are many risks connected with operating the collider. The greatest being the deficiency of knowledge. Theories ranging from the creation of miniature black holes to the ultimate destruction of the planet are seemingly not studied, but blatantly discarded by the scientists. Playing with sticks and stones and the consequences do not quite apply to sub-atomic physics.
Some experts have warned that the researchers at the CEPC should be wary about conducting experiments that result in conditions that have no precedent, even in the entire universe. The collider will likely be located close to the town of Qinhuangdao, with the Great Wall close by. However, a final decision on the matter will only be made after determining the support the project receives from the local government.
In addition to China, Japan is also considering developing a collider, with scientists reportedly scouting the region of Tohoku for setting up the machine. However, Beijing is expected to beat Japan and finish work on their collider first. Once operational, the CEPC is estimated to run until 2055.