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A Smashing Bad Time For the United States

3 min read

To decay, in particle physics lingo, is to morph from one particle into another. ”In decay” might well describe the state of experimental particle physics in the United States, if the country doesn’t make a strong push in coming years to host the world’s next big particle smasher. That, anyway, is the view of the multidisciplinary Committee on Elementary Particle Physics in the 21st Century, in a recent report issued by the U.S. National Research Council (NRC).

Particle accelerators whip up protons, lighter particles, nuclei, or ions to near light speed, then let them crash into each other or into a target to release their enormous energy as a sunburst of short-lived, highly unstable particles. The bigger the machine and the more energetic the collisions, the more exotic the particles dislodged.

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Greg Mably


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