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.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
news

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
Travel
travel

...and the perfect time to visit them

Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

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

IT Project Manager (technical, applications, infrastructure)

£55000 - £60000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: IT Proj...

Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Year 6 Teacher RequiredThis teaching...

SharePoint Administrator - Bishop's Stortford / Stansted

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SharePoint Administrator - Bishop's ...

Maths Teacher (Swindon and Wiltshire)

Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: Maths teachers for short-term cover, l...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week