Image of a smaller collider in operation in Beijing. Photo: Xinhua

The Higgs boson, aka “God particle”, is the ultimate frontier in particle physics. The significance of the elementary particle and its properties is that it is able to be examined using existing knowledge and experimental technology as a means to confirm and study the entire Higgs field theory.

In layman’s terms, different subatomic particles are responsible for giving matter different properties. One of the most mysterious and important properties is mass: some particles like protons and neutrons have mass, while others, like photons, do not. The Higgs boson is believed to be the particle which gives mass to matter, according to scientists.

The elusive “God particles” were first spotted in 2012 in subatomic crashes that took place inside the Large Hadron Collider, a multibillion-dollar particle accelerator in a 27-km circular tunnel 175 meters beneath the French-Swiss border near Geneva. The collider, dubbed the largest machine in the world and operated by the Organisation Européenne pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN), verified the existence of the elusive Higgs boson, a landmark event in particle physics.

A bird’s eye view of the Large Hadron Collider in Europe. Photo: Handout
The Large Hadron Collider verified the existence of the ‘God particle’ in 2012. Photo: Handout

But now China aims to construct a next-generation 100-km proton-proton circular electron-positron collider that will dwarf the European facility. The giant underground collider is designed to fire protons at near light speed and smash them together to mass produce the transient Higgs bosons for intensive study.

A funding proposal was submitted by the Chinese Academy of Sciences to the central government in November, after the academy’s Beijing Institute of High Energy Physics finalized a detailed concept design. The first component is expected to be installed from 2022, according to the South China Morning Post.

Several sites have been suggested, including Qinhuangdao in Hebei province near Beijing, Yan’an in Shaanxi province and Shanwei in the southern Guangdong province, according to Chinese papers.

China is pouring in money and talent in a race against similar projects initiated by Japan and Europe to build a “God particle” factory, undaunted by prohibitive costs.

Japan has reportedly started designing its new collider after hearing about China’s plan, though the controversy is that the proposed site is in a seismically active zone, while the CERN has been working on plans for two new colliders, though it will have to break all the red tape to secure approval from all European Union member states to get the funding it needs.

By comparison, China’s funding for science and research will reach 2.5% of GDP in 2019, second only to the US.

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