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Concept design for a post-LHC future circular collider at CERN (home.cern)
109 points by est31 30 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 84 comments

Less than 10 billion euros for something that will do amazing things for science? Where do I donate?

> Less than 10 billion euros for something that will do amazing things for science? Where do I donate?

I know right? A single aircraft carrier costs like $13 billion USD (or about 11.3 billion euros as of today). I'll take a huge machine for science over a big machine for war any day.

EDIT: I got downvoted but see no comment? I'd like to know if I got my numbers wrong.

I didn't downvote you but I disagree with the general idea of your comment for two reasons.

One is that the big machine for war is what allows you to feel and be safe, by making sure you don't get attacked, and making sure no country can deprive you of the necessities you need, thus allowing you to invest yourself in things that aren't related to your safety, like this kind of research.

And the second one is that we owe a giant lot to research done for the purpose of war. That we're having this conversation currently, on computers, through the internet, which I use by wifi, in a french home powered by a nuclear reactor ... War research is one of 3 big misappreciated sources of research advance along with fundamental research and space research, amongst the ones that many people often calls out as "doesn't bring anything / we could do without". Like it or not, we're competitive organism and we're at our best on that front when threatened or when trying to steal others's resources.

With that said it is all a matter of measures and balance, and assuming you're american I agree that the US went completly overboard on that military spending front. Having the know-how to make carriers ? Yes. Having enough carriers to ensure you're safe, that nobody can push you around and that you can push someone else around if need be ? Yes. Reaching that point and then still building some more ... Well no.

There's a quote I particularly like in this area.

SENATOR PASTORE. Is there anything connected in the hopes of this accelerator that in any way involves the security of the country?

DR. WILSON. No, sir; I do not believe so.

SENATOR PASTORE. Nothing at all?

DR. WILSON. Nothing at all.

SENATOR PASTORE. It has no value in that respect?

DR. WILSON. It only has to do with the respect with which we regard one another, the dignity of men, our love of culture. It has to do with those things.

It has nothing to do with the military. I am sorry.

SENATOR PASTORE. Don't be sorry for it.

DR. WILSON. I am not, but I cannot in honesty say it has any such application.

SENATOR PASTORE. Is there anything here that projects us in a position of being competitive with the Russians, with regard to this race?

DR. WILSON. Only from a long-range point of view, of a developing technology. Otherwise, it has to do with: Are we good painters, good sculptors, great poets? I mean all the things that we really venerate and honor in our country and are patriotic about.

In that sense, this new knowledge has all to do with honor and country but it has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to help make it worth defending.


The whole transcript is worth reading. If someone had told me I was reading a play I wouldn't have batted an eye. What the hell happened to us.

Wow, just wow. I'm so glad this popped up today. When I first read the transcript I thought it _was_ a play it sounds so articulate, subtle and informed.

The military line shouldn't be taken out of context - Wilson was saying sorry as I assume including applicability would have made Pastore's job easier when taking it to the House.

Doing things because you can and because you have the imagination to see a positive outcome. The Chairman's comments are gold.

Thanks so much for sharing this!

In Fermilab’s building phase Wilson’s attitude was famous: he would fire anybody not busy working. At one time such a victim responded: you cannot fire me. Wilson asked why not, to which the man answered that he actually did not work for Fermilab. -- Facts and mysteries in elementary particle physics

Some down voters here seem to be at odds with the facts.

Just think where U.S. particle physics science would be today if the SSC (1) hadn't been canceled. Comparable because of spare change, esp. if you consider the amount already invested.

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superconducting_Super_Collider...

Pastore had another famous exchange with Fred Rogers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9uIJ-o2yqQ

Thanks for posting this. This whole thread is fantastic. Perhaps even in the good ol' days people were inwardly just as flawed and nasty as modern times, but the concept of 'manners' and 'etiquette' seems to have become a dying art. Civilised conduct is worth the effort, it would seem to me.

Not American, and I disagree on a few regards to your comment (for example, I do believe we would've eventually invented a lot of the same things regardless of the military), but I do agree that the US has gone overboard.

They seem to have 13 carriers-- that's more than the rest of the world combined! And have ordered 7 more. They should build a collider instead of their next one-- they could theoretically make it twice as big and still have budget to spare. After all, I don't think at this point they need them to remain competitive in their defense.

> They seem to have 13 carriers

20, I think; 11 large deck carriers (the regular fleet carriers) and 9 medium deck (the “gator navy” LHA/LHDs carrying Marine aviation.) There's two more fleet carriers (and another LHD) under construction, plus more ordered.

The rest of the world has something like 3 maybe/kinda large deck carriers (all smaller than the US ones), and handful of medium deck ones, and enough small deck ones that the total number of carriers is about the same as the US, maybe a few more, but nowhere near the capacity.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_aircraft_carriers_in... provides a starting point, but has some problems and inconsistencies.

Are people really defending the military industrial complex? I have mixed feelings about it. The money the US spends on the military is bonkers but it does I guess work to dissuade people from attacking the mainland (domestic terror, the first and second attack’s on the World Trade Center and the pentagon not included) and all the spending has kept the dollar the most saught currency worldwide (not a fact just something I think might be true) and the big military allows the USA to keep it’s spot as the worlds reserve currency because it’s so secure and the government is relatively stable, etc., etc.

But we could spend 5% less and still spend more on the entire world combined and have tons of money for the sciences, social programs, etc.

I will admit many advances have been made in times of war but I would like to think that a stable country with decent spending in scientific research can keep that innovation going without having to have a race to see who can build the most accurate delivery machanisms for nuclear weapons or a faux space race to measure dicks and place the idea that one nation could put a giant nation ending laser in space.

> But we could spend 5% less and still spend more on the entire world combined and have tons of money for the sciences, social programs, etc.

Fun fact: in the recent audit of the Pentagon, it was discovered among other things that of the funding they received last year, they had been unable to spend $28 billion of it. That's more than the entire budget of NASA in unused budget allocations.

Wow. Where does that unused budget go? Surely it doesn’t come back as a tax refund. Likely gets rolled over into next year’s budget so they can buy 600 dollar toilets: https://www.thenation.com/article/only-the-pentagon-could-sp...

No, AFAICT it doesn't get rolled over. More likely it doesn't get added to the deficit, so the money just literally disappears. The system works pretty strangely when you have the power to lend yourself unlimited money...

The big war machine isn't what keeps us safe; that is a fetishization of the military that has always been around as a justification for outsized military budgets.

Saying that we've gotten research via military funding also disregards how much more research we could get if it weren't redirected through the war bureaucracy. Funding research through the military is about as inefficient as you could get--better than doing so via the lottery, I guess, or by throwing bundles off cash off a bridge, but not by much.

> The big war machine isn't what keeps us safe; that is a fetishization of the military that has always been around as a justification for outsized military budgets.

It absolutely is, please understand that I'm not american, and I believe the US Mil. budget is way, way, WAY over the top. But the opposite, not having any of it, would be even stupider. You have the entirety of history to verify the claim, and giving exemples of countries who don't have it but are covered and defended by those who do does not really dispute it.

> Saying that we've gotten research via military funding also disregards how much more research we could get if it weren't redirected through the war bureaucracy.

Sure, if you're willing to forget the nature of what we are.

The possibilities are not "war and war research" or "no war, no war research, all in scientific research". The human nature of what makes armed conflict happen has been there since before there even was a notion of anything close to "research budgets".

> budget is way, way, WAY over the top. But the opposite, not having any of it, would be even stupider.

Who said anything about not having any of it?

Also, I don't quite grasp what you mean by your second claim. You mean to say that not spending money in military research doesn't mean we would spend it in other research?

I think a lot of what we have today would've been invented regardless of military conflict. Perhaps in a slower fashion, which would've perhaps also been better and more sustainable. Inventing to "save our lives" I think is a given, and assuming we didn't fear each other as much, perhaps we could focus more on our fear of disease, or climate catastrophe.

>>> Sure, if you're willing to forget the nature of what we are.

There's a difference between seeing our nature as "a fact" or seeing our nature as an "evolving one".

History is full of wars, that's for sure. But remember things that makes us "better" like : laws, political structures, structural investment in research, etc.

Now that I'm thinking about it, is there a minimum of military means that is necessary for our "nature" to evolve... (and are we at that minimum right now ?). I don't count nuclear stuff 'cos it doesn't make anybody safer (contrary to warplanes, ships, soldiers, etc.)

It absolutely is, please understand that I'm not american, and I believe the US Mil. budget is way, way, WAY over the top. But the opposite, not having any of it,

All we need to feel safe and be safe is a few nuclear weapons and a couple of oceans, both of which we already have. Everything else is either not a threat, not our problem, or not a military problem.

How can you feel safe knowing your country’s only response for an attack is a nuclear bomb?

In case you haven't noticed, no hostile military forces will attack you if you have nukes. It only takes one to ruin the invader's whole day.

You will still have to deal with the occasional 9/11-style harassment, of course, but it's not as if having the world's most powerful military will prevent that.

I'm curious as to your thoughts on how big war machines do not provide safety, and why the thought that they do is only fetishism of the military?

Can't speak for big war machines in general, but aircraft carriers specifically are a relic of the cold war and have only maintained relevance in recent decades because the US has only ever been involved in massively asymmetrical conflicts.

In a modern open battle between evenly matched opponents, the carriers would all be on the bottom of the ocean by the end of the second day.

EDIT to add— found the article I was looking for, about the economics and battle realities of carriers:

"Soviet Adm. Sergei Gorchakov reportedly held the view that the U.S. had made a strategic miscalculation by relying on large and increasingly vulnerable aircraft carriers. The influential U.S. Adm. Hyman Rickover shared this view. In a 1982 congressional hearing, legislators asked him how long American carriers would survive in an actual war.

Rickover’s response? “Forty-eight hours,” he said."

Source: https://medium.com/war-is-boring/the-u-s-navys-big-mistake-b...

If a country were to take out all of our carriers I'm pretty sure nukes would be flying. At that point does it matter?

I think it’s more likely that an enemy will take out one carrier, after which the other ones will be kept out of the danger zone, thus becoming useless.

That’s what happened with the Tirpitz after the Bismarck was sunk. I think that situation is analogous because Bismarck’s demise was due to an attack with relatively cheap weapons (torpedo bombers) with a longer range than Bismarck’s guns, just as people predict modern air carriers don’t stand a chance against relatively cheap rockets because those rockets have a longer range than the airplanes on the carriers.

That's exactly the point - no, it wouldn't matter. So, why spend so much for something that wouldn't matter? For the asymmetric conflicts that are actually being fought, you don't need so many carriers.

* I'd like to know if I got my numbers wrong.*

What you got wrong is that, to get to an aircraft carrier, you need a lot of science, and applied science.

Granted, it's not a collider. But it's not a zero contribution either.

To get one aircraft carrier you need a lot of science. To get the next ones, not so much.

That's plain disingenuous. Maybe you don't need as much as for the initial one, but iterative process exists outside software. There's a myriad of systems to improve, from targeting, radar, communications, to materials and weapons. And you need new technologies that can benefit everyone, e.g. better AI to target incoming missiles, better software to control the turrets to destroy them.

And if that's not bleeding edge enough, railguns and, specific to aircraft carriers, catapults.



Plus the development on energy generation to feed these electricity-hungry systems.

Just read that first link:

"Another reason I am not excited about the current plans for a larger collider is that we might get more bang for the buck if we waited for better technologies. There’s the plasma wakefield acceleration, eg, that is in a test-period now and that may become a more efficient route to progress. Also, maybe high temperature superconductors will reach a level where they become usable for the magnets. "

The new accelerator won't have superconducting magnets and doesn't have a particular particle to look for like the LHC did with the Higgs.

Can anybody explain why we know there's exciting stuff at 15 orders of magnitude more power than what we currently have? I'm off today and I'd love to fall into a high-energy particle physics wikipedia wormhole.

That's the energy scale where the force of gravity becomes strong enough to influence subatomic particle interactions.

Currently, our model of nature at subatomic scales (the 'Standard Model') does not include gravity. This is fine for LHC energy scale, because gravity is so weak compared to the other three forces (electromagnetism, strong & weak nuclear force), that it can be ignored. The mass of quarks, electrons etc is tiny, you can make precise predictions on stuff like 'particle X will decay into particles Y & Z at this likelihood', without accommodating gravity.

But at the planck energy scale, gravity is too strong to be ignored, and the Standard Model breaks down, it can't make predictions. So this is why the planck scale is where you're 100% guaranteed to see 'new physics'.


EDIT: think the reason gravity becomes stronger at higher energies, is because the _relativistic mass_ of particles increases with their velocity.

So if you bang two electrons a&b together at nearly the speed of light, the effective mass of electron a from the frame of reference of electron b will be orders of magnitude greater than the 'rest mass of electron a'. Because strength of gravitational interaction is proportional to mass of particles involved, electron b will feel stronger gravitational pull of electron a (and vice versa).

So if the electrons are traveling at planck scale speeds, the strength of gravitational interaction becomes comparable to the electromagnetic interaction between them. Then all standard model predictions of how the electrons interact goes out of the window, because SM cannot model gravity.


A comment in the 2nd article implies that Loop quantum gravity is being referred to there:

"Quantum gravitation occurs at a scale of 10^{14} to 10^{16}TeV and the 10 TeV work we can do is 13 or more orders of magnitude too low."

My understanding is that, since we have no idea what's happening down there, whatever it is would be new and exciting.

(feel free to correct)

Well, there is a dedicated top of the line full-manned CERN video studio to produce marketing videos.


I agree we should spend on science but at this moment I would prefer to spend the money on fusion research.

In 2018, the EU proposed allocating €6bn to ITER, the international fusion reactor project in France. I can't find figures for the contributions from other countries, or whether the EU followed through with that.

[1] https://ec.europa.eu/energy/en/topics/technology-and-innovat...

I don't know if more money would help fusion. Maybe it just takes time to work through the issues and money won't speed up things. But if money would speed up things I would vote for that.

Does ITER have any hope at all?

Articles about ITER's promise seem to pop-up every time they need new funding like clockwork.

They're building it and it's the first of it's kind. ITER isn't stuck - the building and it's contents are going up week by week. I visited the site when it was an interesting hole in the ground, and they've done a lot more since then.

Also fun fact there's a spider that eats bats that lives in that area.

"Also fun fact there's a spider that eats bats that lives in that area.


Scary. What kind of spider is that? Or are the bats really small?

Let's make it both. Scrap plans for two future aircraft carriers, instead of just one.

I don't actually get how it can be this cheap; your tunneling through 100 kms of mounatinous earth and filling it with rare-earth superconductors. In contrast European subways average out to around 100 million per km to put a couple rails in a concrete tube

If anything like the LHC, the tunnel will be much smaller in diameter. The LHC, designed to reuse the existing LEP tunnel, is just 3.8m in diameter.

https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/pdf/10.1098/rsta.2011... http://atlasexperiment.org/photos/lhc.html

The subways have to be safe for human passengers, interface with stations, and be built in populated areas without disturbing the buildings above.

if you are a EU citizen you do not have to donate. your contribution is automatic whether you've asked for it not.

The EC partly funded the FCC design study (http://www.eurocircol.eu/), but I'd be amazed if the EU made a significant contribution to actually building it. Particularly as it would mean 22+ member states paying twice.

With your taxes. No sarcasm intended.

...of which a sizeable chunk will go to Western European's private pension fund: the Pension Fund of CERN manages approximately 4 billion Swiss Francs in assets, both internally and externally.

And screw the younger generation, while at it (most of whom aren't eligible anyway). Conditions for new members (see Table 1): https://cds.cern.ch/record/1694667

And the rest will go into salaries.


Pensions are just deferred salaries. Do we expect scientists to work for free, or something?

We expect scientists' salaries to be based on merit, not based on discrimination on grounds of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, disability, creed, cultural background or other factors, such as age or nationality.

"The cost [...] has been evaluated, taking into account realistic labor prices in different countries. The total cost is X (with a western equivalent value of Y) [where Y>X]

source: LHCb calorimeters : Technical Design Report

ISBN: 9290831693 cdsweb.cern.ch/record/494264

I have no idea what point you're trying to make with that quote. Companies and universities in different countries pay different salaries. That is outside the control of CERN.

What's the issue with what they are doing? Isn't it the case for most pension system that the retirement age has been increased over time to make up for life expectancy improvements?

Also the assets under management sounds pretty standard compared to similar funds in Switzerland.

The issue is that other people subsidize this luxurious lifestyle.

For example, in Germany it takes 1100 pensioners who are forced to pay "public" television fees to finance the pension and lifestyle of a single ZDF bigshot.

This includes people who are barely above social security level.

As the Higgs fills in the last missing particle for the Standard Model, creating such a new accelerator seems very speculative. Maybe there is nothing else to find at higher energies, there is no hint of them at the LHC and the Standard model does not predict anything. I understand professionals always want more experimental power, but given the $10billion+ cost, it seems hard to justify.

Yes, I found Sabine Hossenfelder's summary of LHC++ rather sobering. http://backreaction.blogspot.com/2018/12/cern-produces-marke... (Very interesting blog, BTW)

She does not work in the field and is not an expert. She also has an axe to grind, because she barely got tenure after many years in academia.

The main benefits of CERN go well beyond the actual science that is done and building such a collider trains thousands of people in all kinds of skills that are very valuable in the real economy. It generates truly big data as well, so analyzing and handling that data trains yet another set of thousands of people. Most of them eventually quit particle physics and are then hired at SAP, Google, BMW (real examples I know of).

The Standard Model is known to be incomplete, there must be something somewhere that leads us to a broader understanding.

Let's put that $10 billion into perspective. How much would you pay for Quantum theory (yes, it's a broad term)? It gave us the modern world as we see it today.

I think that $10 billion is cheap considering the possibilities that it might unlock.

Scientists always want more money, even if it isn’t needed. It is what they are groomed to do by their organizations. It’s a sickness. How do I know? I work in academia as a scientist and see it first hand. It’s not about what did you discover anymore, it’s about how much money did you bring in.

Yeah I mean it's the biggest indicator of whether you'll get tenure. It's sad but it's how it is.

Looks like SERN is moving ahead of schedule.

Be safe.

El Psy Congroo

I may or may not have a pristine IBM 5100 for sale.

Has there been any progress of the AWAKE accelerator technology? https://home.cern/science/experiments/awake Seems like that could be a cheaper method of particle acceleration.

There was a discussion over at Physics Forums regarding wakefield acceleration.


Note that mfb works as a physicist in the CMS detector team, Vanadium 50 and ZapperZ are current or have been high-energy physicists as well.

In summary, issue seems to be that the strong acceleration provided reduces beam quality, which kind of negates the gains you got from the higher energy. Though it doesn't seem to be a fundamental limitation, just a difficult engineering issue.

I always thought mfb worked on ATLAS

I can't find the reference right now, but in one thread he said something about how the CMS team did their analysis and then commented along the lines that ATLAS did something similar but he wasn't sure of the details. That's why I got the impression he was on the CMS team.

Anyway, he works with one of them, so he's not just a random internet armchair expert was my point :)

Not on AWAKE specifically but there's been some exciting progress made using supersonic jets of neutral gas as decent lenses for wakefield accelerated beams. This solves the problem of having a tiny accelerator with a wakefield (not counting the size of the driving laser/beam/whatever) but still requiring large/bulky sections for quadrapole electrostatic lenses and the like.

I'd support this if there was some notion of compromise, some sharing of the load between projects. Why not build the new ring to incorporate the current detector halls? Get the ring 90% done, then punch through into one of the existing LHC detector arrays. Use as much of the current LHC equipment as possible. Once those abilities have been maxed, then move forwards with costly new detectors.

The detectors are heavily, heavily optimized based on the properties of the beam, and they are not that expensive compared to the cost of the accelerator, operations, and data analysis.

As far as I know, the exact location of the collider is constrained by geography. It has to fit next to the Jura and around a part of the Alps. And they are probably going to reuse many of the LHC preaccelerators anyway.

wouldn't it be better to put it where the ground is not active?

I'd also put it where labor prices are not the highest in the world.

tunneling in Switzerland is actually reasonable compared internationally. Take a look at the NEAT project. Roughly 100km of tunnels built for 22bn or so, in highly difficult terrain. NYC built like a couple of km and a station for almost the same cost.

my understanding is that they had very bad difficulties drilling in CH for the Gotthard project: http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/the-gotthard-base... .

my point was that despite all these difficulties, long duration and it being Switzerland, cost was actually reasonable. ~22M / tunnel kilometer is an order of magnitude lower than many other projects abroad. In general I find public infrastructure projects here to be well run and within reasonable budget. With these kinds of things, labour cost seems to be less of important than inefficiences due to administration and legal uncertainties (unions, nimbys etc.)

Surely better in some ways, surely worse in some other ways.

Good news, but it’s not a CDR collider. It collides particles not reports.

Technically reports are made out of particles, though

That would be awesome, though.

It plans to build the Future Circular Collider (FCC). The Conceptual Design Report (CDR) has already been built[1], but not yet released.


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