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Sunday, 11 February 2007 05:14

International Linear Collider proposed to explore origins of universe

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An international high-energy physics research project was proposed on Thursday, February 8, 2007, at a meeting in Beijing, China. The project intends to design and build the International Linear Collider that is proposed to consist of a 30-kilometer (20-mile) linear particle accelerator.

Professor of physics John Hauptman, from Iowa State University at Ames stated, “The collider will help physicists around the world research core questions about the universe, such as the origin of mass, dark matter, dark energy and extra dimensions.”

The announcement for the project was made at the Institute for High Energy Physics in Beijing, China. The total design project involves about one thousand scientists and engineers from about one hundred countries. The proposed cost for the ILC is estimated to be about $7 billion for the construction site and materials (specifically about $2 billion for site-related construction and $5 billion for high-tech equipment and about 2,000 scientific and engineering personnel).

Along with countries from North America and Europe, Asian countries such as Japan and China will play major roles in the design, development, and operation of the project.

The International Linear Collider (ILC) will slam beams of electrons and positrons (the antimatter of electrons) together at almost the speed of light in order to produce energies reminiscent of conditions only one-trillionth of a second after the Big Bang explosion—the theoretical beginning of the universe. Energies produced by the ILC will be 500 billion electron volts (or 500 giga-electron volts [GeV]). At a later date, the ILC is expected to be expanded in length to 50 kilometers (31 miles) and upgraded to a maximum energy of 1,000 billion (one trillion) electron volts (or one tera-electron volt [TeV]).

The ILC project was created in 2004 from a compilation of three other projects: the U.S. Next Linear Collider (NLC), the Japanese Global Linear Collider (GLC), and the German Teraelectronvolt Energy Superconducting Linear Accelerator (TESLA). A year later, the International Committee for Future Accelerators (ICFA) appointed Barry Barish, professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology at Pasadena, as the Director of the Global Design Effort.

Combining the three projects into one allows scientists throughout the world to work together for a common goal. In fact, Barish states that besides the scientific and technological value from the ILC project “… a major benefit is sociological, involving the peaceful collaboration among nations.”

The project is in the early stage of design. Sufficient funding and a construction site have yet to be found—although possible sites in the United States (Fermi National Laboratory, Batavia, Illinois), Switzerland (European Center for Nuclear Research [Cern] near Geneva), and Japan have already been considered.

The Web page for the International Linear Collider is: http://www.linearcollider.org/cms/.

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