x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Massive implications

So what will the Large Hadron Collider be used for after the secrets of the universe are unlocked?

At the weekend, scientists revealed a fundamental truth about the universe. Or, then again, maybe not.

Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider at Cern, along the French-Swiss border, announced on Friday they may have a line on the long-elusive Higgs boson particle. So far, the Higgs boson has been a theoretical concept - it has to exist if standard models of physics are correct, but the trick has been to actually find it.

And so, $9 billion (Dh33 billion), 30 years and 27 kilometres of tunnel later, the Large Hadron Collider is starting to hit the mark, generating enough data to at least indicate that the theories hold true. We won't put too much faith in this recent announcement just yet. In April, a similar flurry of optimism was excited by the release of internal e-mails at Cern about a different spike in the data. When a scientist seems ebulliently optimistic, the rest of us should be deeply sceptical.

But the announcement raises another philosophical question: what are they going to do with the Large Hadron Collider once they've discovered the secrets of the universe?

Tours for physics geeks might have a certain appeal. Perhaps the world's fastest roller coaster (minus the collider) could work. But for the time being, let's keep those particles smashing together and see what turns up.