“Is Everything We Know About The Universe Wrong?”

As I said at the end of last year – It’s still the experiment most likely to find more than a pair of WIMPy socks. If they’re really there… But it might take a little longer than expected. Belfast-born director of accelerators at Cern, Steve Myers, has told the BBC that the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s highest energy particle accelerator, will only be run at half-maximum power for 18 to 24 months before being switched off for a year to carry out improvements to the 27km tunnel – at which point maximum power collisions will be attempted for the first time. Although the CERN bulletin doesn’t appear to have heard the news, whilst the Director General portrays it as standard procedure. And if you missed it last night, you can catch another wondrous Horizon on the iPlayer – “Is Everything We Know About The Universe Wrong?” – on the ‘fixes’ to the standard cosmological model required to match the observable universe. Including the inflationary hypothesus, ‘dark’ matter, ‘dark’ energy, and, possibly, ‘dark’ flow.From the BBC report

Dr Myers said: “It’s something that, with a lot more resources and with a lot more manpower and quality control, possibly could have been avoided but I have difficulty in thinking that this is something that was a design error.”

He said: “The standard phrase is that the LHC is its own prototype. We are pushing technologies towards their limits.”

“You don’t hear about the thousands or hundreds of thousands of other areas that have gone incredibly well.

“With a machine like the LHC, you only build one and you only build it once.”

And from Cern’s Director General, Rolf Heuer.

Two years of continuous running is a tall order both for the LHC operators and the experiments, but it will be well worth the effort. By abandoning CERN’s traditional annual operational cycle we’re increasing the overall running time and discovery potential over the next three years. This run will be followed by preparations for 14 TeV collisions in a single shutdown and another major advance into new territory as great as the one we are on the threshold of achieving.

And, on the search for ‘dark’ matter, I can’t resist linking the Guardian’s interview with Brian Cox

G: Historically, we’ve often thought we’re getting close to cracking the secrets of the universe. Are we?

Brian Cox: I honestly think the wheels are coming off our picture of the way the universe works at the moment. We don’t know what 96% of the universe is made of – that tells us that we don’t understand something fundamental. It reminds me of the start of the 20th century when quantum mechanics and relativity were about to appear.

G: We wouldn’t expect a dog to understand the mysteries of the universe, so why should we imagine that we can?

Brian Cox: It’s an open question, whether it’s too complicated. All you can do is point back to history to note that we’ve been successful on this reductionist journey up to now. But there’s no reason…

G: Have you ever believed in God?

Brian Cox: No! I was sent to Sunday school for a few weeks but I didn’t like getting up on Sunday mornings. But some of my friends are religious. I don’t have a strong view on religion, other than illogical religion. Young earth creationism, for example: bollocks.

Heh.