Last night the LHC started injecting beams into the main ring for the first time in 2010. The last week has been frustrating for the LHC scientists with a series of minor problems related to components such as the new quench protection system delaying the restart. Finally at about 2 a.m. today the beams were circulating briefly and the main operations display included the characteristic smiling snowman plot first seen last year.
This is the kickoff for science runs this year that could discover new physics beyond the standard model. Over the next few weeks the energy of the protons will be pushed up to 3.5TeV. When they collide this energy can be converted to mass to create new particles never seen before, if they exist!
So what is the probable outcome? A major goal of the LHC is to find the Higgs Boson. The Tevatron in the US has been searching for it over the last few years and has excluded some mass ranges but without a positive result. The most likely scenario from both experiment and theory is that its mass lies in the 115 – 140 GeV range, although other possibilities are still viable. If this is the case then it will be hard to find at the LHC because its decay modes are hard to detect. We cannot expect to see it this year before the LHC is shut down for further upgrade work lasting a whole year at least.
But could the LHC make any other breakthrough discoveries this year? Of course the answer is “yes, maybe”. If there are particles in amass range of about 200 – 700 Gev with the right properties then there is a good chance that they might be seen. We just have to hope that nature has been kind to us.
Oh, did I forget to mention black holes? The idea that the LHC could create black holes is one of those wild ideas which if posted to viXra would be completely ignored, but because it came from some Ivy League research department people take it very seriously. A more convincing idea is that such small blackholes would not be different from any other type of elementary particles of the same size. It’s only because we do not understand quantum gravity well enough to unify the two concepts of black hole and particle that people invent the idea that they can be different. Black Hole production at the LHC is a red-herring.