LHC: “if nature is kind to us and the lightest supersymmetric particle, or the Higgs boson, is within reach…”

The Large Hadron Collider at Cern had been scheduled to take a year-long break at the end of 2011, before returning at full power, 7 TeV per beam, in 2012/13.

But, as the Guardian’s tame particle physicist Jon Butterworth notes, a new schedule has been announced.  From Jon Butterworth

The LHC will run through 2011 and 2012, rather than shutting down for more than a year at the end of 2011 as previously planned. This is great news for those of us currently having fun with data – we will get much more.

The beam energy will stay at 3.5 Tera-electron-volts (TeV). There had been discussion that this might increase slightly, but this won’t happen during 2011, though it may later. For some analyses this is a mild disappointment, but for most the extra data more than make up for this. Steve Myers, head of the project, reckons we should get a factor of three increase in the rate of collisions. This is likely to be enough to get that damned elusive Higgs boson if it’s there.

After a long shut-down in 2013, the 7 TeV beams are now expected to be achieved around 2014.

It’s not clear how much Cern’s decision has been influence by the absence of extended funding for the Fermilab’s Tevatron accelerator – which had been expected to be the LHC’s main competitor in the race to find evidence of the Higgs boson.

And from the Cern press release

“With the LHC running so well in 2010, and further improvements in performance expected, there’s a real chance that exciting new physics may be within our sights by the end of the year,” Said CERN’s Research Director, Sergio Bertolucci. “For example, if nature is kind to us and the lightest supersymmetric particle, or the Higgs boson, is within reach of the LHC’s current energy, the data we expect to collect by the end of 2012 will put them within our grasp.”

The schedule announced today foresees beams back in the LHC next month, and running through to mid December. There will then be a short technical stop over the year before resuming in early 2012.

Here’s a good introduction to the Standard Model of Particle Physics from Cern News – it’s the first in a series of videos.

Of course, there may still be further wrinkles ahead…

Adds  That race isn’t quite over yet…  From the BBC report

The Tevatron is now due to run until September this year. Unless that machine turns up evidence for the Higgs boson, the LHC will be left as the only machine in the world capable of searching for the elusive sub-atomic particle.

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