40km tunnel will try to unravel secrets of universe

Details of a giant machine for discovering the secrets of the universe were revealed yesterday by scientists who believe the massive device could revolutionise how we understand the cosmos.

Details of a giant machine for discovering the secrets of the universe were revealed yesterday by scientists who believe the massive device could revolutionise how we understand the cosmos.

An international panel of particle physicists has decided that the high-energy linear collider - a £3bn machine for smashing matter against antimatter - will use revolutionary superconducting technology to shed light on the origin and nature of the universe. Plans for the International Linear Collider have still to be finalised but scientists hope that construction of the underground machine will begin in six years.

The collider will be housed in a dead-straight tunnel up to 40km long. It will set a precedent by becoming the first truly globally owned instrument built by all the major countries of the world.

By colliding pencil-thin beams of electrons and positrons - the antimatter equivalent of electrons - scientists believe they will be able to answer some of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the universe, said Neil Calder, director of communications at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Centre in California.

"In the last 10 years there has been a revolution in our concept of the universe and the realities of our new knowledge are very much stranger than could be have been imagined," he said.

Last year, physicists accurately measured for the first time how the universe is composed. They found that only 4 per cent of it was made up of visible atoms, with the rest being mysterious dark matter and dark energy - neither of which entities can be seen.

"The implications of this new understanding are enormous. We and everything we can see with our most powerful instruments make up only 4 per cent of the universe," Dr Calder said. "We are a tiny minority. The rest is waiting to be discovered... The linear collider is the key to understanding this weird and wonderful universe that we inhabit," he said.

Professor Brian Foster of Oxford University said that the linear collider will be fully integrated with existing atom smashers such as the Large Hadron Collider currently being built at the Cern high-energy physics centre in Geneva.

"The linear collider will take our science into completely new areas which will hopefully reveal new and exciting physics, addressing the 21st century agenda of compelling questions about dark matter and dark energy, the existence of extra dimensions and the fundamental nature of matter, energy, space and time," Professor Foster said.

Professor George Kalmus of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire said that the linear collider was needed because existing atom smashers could only take the understanding of sub-atomic physics so far.

"We're at a point where we understand a great deal of how the world is put together, but we certainly don't understand it all, such as what is the origin of mass," said Professor Kalmus, who is a member of the international panel which decided on the technology to be used in the linear collider.

Professor Kalmus said that when quantum mechanics was first discussed 80 years ago by scientists such as Albert Einstein, no one could have predicted that this esoteric area of physics would eventually form the basis of all modern microelectronics. "When we understand things at a deeper level, which we will with the linear collider, we get an insight into other areas," he said.

Spending £3bn on a single machine would almost certainly generate practical spin-offs, although no one at this stage can predict what these would be, Professor Kalmus said. "If we could foresee what will come out of this, the case for building it would be easy to make," he said.

Germany, Japan and the United States are leading contenders for the site of the new machine. Millions of pounds are being spent on researching the technology of the linear collider but a final decision on whether to go ahead and build it is not likely for another three or five years.

Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, UI, JMX, FIX)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, U...

Structured Finance

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - An excellent new instruction w...

SQL Server Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Server Developer SQL, PHP, C#, Real Time,...

C#.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff