Continuing to delve into the depths of space and the structure of the Universe, researchers working with the Large Hadron Collider under the auspices of CERN (the leading European organisationfor nuclear research) have put forward a proposal to create an innovative project – the Future Circular Collider (FCC). This bold endeavour, aimed at rethinking the very essence of particle physics, seeks not only to revolutionise our understanding of the Universe but also to expand the boundaries of scientific research. However, the colossal price tag of 20 billion euros has sparked heated debates, raising questions about the economic feasibility and allocation of funds for research.
More than a decade ago, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) marked a historic milestone by discovering the elusive Higgs boson particle. However, dark matter and dark energy – mysterious components constituting 95% of the Universe – still remain a puzzle, prompting scientists to view the future circular collider as a technological marvel capable of heralding a new era in particle physics.
The FCC, which CERN Director-General Professor Fabiola Gianotti has called “a stunning technology,” harbours grand plans within the scientific community. The first phase of work, scheduled for the mid-2040s, involves colliding electrons at elevated energy levels to obtain a large number of Higgs particles for in-depth analysis. The subsequent stage, planned for the 2070s, will require the use of advanced magnetic technology, yet to be invented, to replace electrons with heavier protons in the relentless quest for new particles.
The main criticism of the project, voiced by prominent scientific figures such as Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder from the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy and Professor Sir David King, former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK government, is prompted by the colossal construction cost and the demands for diverting funds to address urgent global issues such as the climate emergency. In addition to external criticism, the scientific community has been drawn into complex debates about the optimal design of the colossal collider.
For comparison: the planned collider should have a diameter of 100 kilometres, whereas the diameter of the currently existing Large Hadron Collider is just over 26 kilometres. Professor Aidan Robson from the University of Glasgow has presented arguments in favour of an alternative linear collider, citing advantages such as the possibility of faster staged construction and significantly lower costs. Nevertheless, CERN staunchly defends the future circular collider as the most preferable option, the result of extensive consultations with physicists worldwide.
In any case, the scientific community is on the verge of making a decision to approve or reject the project. And if construction does proceed, investor countries will still have to justify the colossal expenditures undertaken during a period of life crisis and a reduction in the green agenda.