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The Coming Revolutions in Particle Physics

The current Standard Model of particle physics begins to unravel when probed much beyond the range of current particle accelerators. So no matter what the Large Hadron Collider finds, it is going to take physics into new territory

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When physicists are forced to give a single-word answer to the question of why we are building the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), we usually reply “Higgs.” The Higgs particle—the last remaining undiscovered piece of our current theory of matter—is the marquee attraction. But the full story is much more interesting. The new collider provides the greatest leap in capability of any instrument in the history of particle physics. We do not know what it will find, but the discoveries we make and the new puzzles we encounter are certain to change the face of particle physics and to echo through neighboring sciences.

In this new world, we expect to learn what distinguishes two of the forces of nature—electromagnetism and the weak interactions—with broad implications for our conception of the everyday world. We will gain a new understanding of simple and profound questions: Why are there atoms? Why chemistry? What makes stable structures possible?

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