What did CERN achieve in its sixty years of existence? That is the main question at the NIKHEF-symposium in Amsterdam to celebrate the birthday of CERN. “How far did the biggest research collaboration push back the frontiers of knowledge? Quite far, we’re getting close to the Big Bang, we’re breaking the wall of the Hidden Universe,” Rolf Heuer, director of CERN, said.
“However, we don’t only push back the frontiers of knowledge and develop new accelerators and detectors, our mission is broader. We want to train the scientists and engineers of tomorrow, most of the people working at CERN are in their twenties and thirties and will spread their knowledge onto new generations as they continue their scientific career.”
“In this large multicultural environment we unite people from different countries and cultures, not only from the EU, but from the whole world. CERN is a clear example of the power of Europe, it is an example of what Europe can achieve when working together,” Heuer stated.
“At CERN, the standard model has been tested with high precision for over decades. However, before the Large Hedron Collider was built, one crucial question was left open: How do elementary particles acquire mass?”
A party of journalists
“Then came the introduction of a scalar field. We would not have known if it was there, if it hadn’t a remarkable property. The scalar field can talk to itself via the Higgs-Particle.
“Imagine that the Higgs field is a party of journalists, equally distributed in the room,” says Professor Heuer. “I can pass through the room mass-less – with the velocity of light – because they don’t know me. If someone well known enters, the journalists cluster around that person: the person’s velocity is limited and he or she acquires mass. The better known that person is, the more the journalists cluster around, and the more massive that person becomes. This is how a particle acquires mass from the Higgs field,” Heuer explained.
Dark Matter and Dark Energy
Although CERN gave humanity a lot of insight in the hidden world of particles and the origin of the Universe, most remains unknown. “The standard model only explains around 5 percent of all energy in the universe. The rest, almost 95 percent, is Dark Matter and Dark Energy. Higgs was just the beginning, the question is: what’s next?”
“Imagine Higgs as multiple, two, particles. They could be like twins that completely look alike, but they pronounce one word differently. Unfortunately, they hardly ever use that word so it takes ages to figure out who is who. That could be the point we’re currently at, since the current Standard Model only explains 5 percent of the Universe. There is much more to discover, our understanding of the universe is about to change!”