Ex­clu­sion of par­ti­cle col­lider in Five-Year Plan ‘not fa­tal’

Re­search team must wait un­til 2020 to reap­ply for 800 mil­lion yuan in State fund­ing

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By CHENG YINGQI chengy­ingqi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The de­ci­sion not to in­clude a pro­posed next-gen­er­a­tion par­ti­cle col­lider in China’s lat­est devel­op­ment plan is a set­back for the project, but not a fa­tal blow, ac­cord­ing to se­nior sci­en­tists.

A team of physi­cists sub­mit­ted a pre­lim­i­nary con­cep­tual de­sign re­port for the Cir­cu­lar Elec­tron Positron Col­lider in June in a bid to se­cure a place in the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) as a large-scale sci­en­tific fa­cil­ity and up to 800 mil­lion yuan ($115 mil­lion) in re­search fund­ing.

How­ever, the pro­posal failed to pass a review by the Na­tional Devel­op­ment and Re­form Com­mis­sion, the top eco­nomic plan­ner, ac­cord­ing to de­tails re­leased by the Chi­nese Academy of Sciences’ In­sti­tute of High En­ergy Physics, the driv­ing force be­hind the col­lider project.

The re­search team re­ceived a 35 mil­lion yuan grant from the Min­istry of Science and Tech­nol­ogy, but the NDRC’s de­ci­sion means the team will need to wait un­til 2020 for an­other chance to land such a sig­nif­i­cant in­jec­tion of State funds.

Wang Yi­fang, di­rec­tor of the in­sti­tute, said in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view that he re­mains up­beat about the col­lider’s prospects, but knows time could be of the essence, with ri­val projects in the pipe­line over­seas.

“This is a very promis­ing fa­cil­ity that will help China, and the world, make great dis­cov­er­ies,” he said, adding that the col­lider will be an in­ter­na­tional project with 30 per­cent of fund­ing com­ing from in­ter­na­tional in­vestors. “We be­lieve this is a great op­por­tu­nity for ev­ery­one, as our un­der­stand­ing of the uni­verse will be sub­stan­tially deep­ened.” What is a par­ti­cle col­lider?

Dif­fer­ent from other sci­en­tific fields that flour­ish in mul­ti­ple re­search in­sti­tutes world­wide, the devel­op­ment of high-en­ergy physics de­pends on large-scale sci­en­tific fa­cil­i­ties — and in the past 30 years that has been the Euro­pean Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Nu­clear Re­search, more com­monly known as CERN.

With the world’s largest and most so­phis­ti­cated col­lider, the Large Hadron Col­lider, the or­ga­ni­za­tion at­tracted more than 6,500 par­ti­cle physi­cists — half of the world’s to­tal — to work for it and suc­cess­fully made al­most all of the im­por­tant dis­cov­er­ies in par­ti­cle physics to date.

In July 2012, CERN an­nounced the dis­cov­ery of the long sought-af­ter Higgs bo­son, the so-called God par­ti­cle, re­garded as the cru­cial link to ex­plain why other el­e­men­tary par­ti­cles have mass. The dis­cov­ery re­ceived a No­bel Prize a year later.

In­spired by the suc­cess, physi­cists from China, Europe and Ja­pan pro­posed their own next-gen­er­a­tion col­lid­ers to study the Higgs bo­son in de­tail.

While China’s CEPC has many ad­vanced fea­tures, it will com­pete with Ja­pan’s In­ter­na­tional Lin­ear Col­lider and CERN’s Fu­ture Cir­cu­lar Col­lider, which could also be­gin con­struc­tion be­tween 2020 and 2030.

“Who­ever builds the largest col­lider will be the in­ter­na­tional leader in par­ti­cle physics,” said Yuan Lan­feng, an as­soci- ate re­searcher of the He­fei Na­tional Lab­o­ra­tory for Phys­i­cal Sciences at the Mi­croscale.

“China has a strate­gic op­por­tu­nity to build a large col­lider in the next five to 10 years,” he said.

“At the cur­rent devel­op­ment stage of par­ti­cle physics, there can be only one most so­phis­ti­cated col­lider in the world. If a coun­try builds one, other coun­tries will have to change their orig­i­nal plans be­cause it is mean­ing­less to build two col­lid­ers of such scale,” he said.

Wang agreed and added, “We need to come up with a com­pet­i­tive ma­chine in or­der to gain nec­es­sary sup­port from the in­ter­na­tional high-en­ergy physics com­mu­nity, and we need to do it quickly.”

In Septem­ber, Yang Zhen­ning, the 94-year-old Chi­ne­seAmer­i­can physi­cist and No­bel lau­re­ate, pub­lished an ar­ti­cle on­line that ar­gued against build­ing a large col­lider in China, cit­ing the huge po­ten­tial cost and stat­ing that the na­tion has more press­ing con­cerns, such as poverty al­le­vi­a­tion.

Wang said it is un­known whether Yang’s com­ments in­flu­enced the gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion, but added that “many peo­ple may not be aware of the tremen­dous role high-en­ergy physics plays in pro­mot­ing a coun­try’s in­dus­trial level, but I be­lieve the de­ci­sion-mak­ers took that into con­sid­er­a­tion”.

China’s first col­lider, the Bei­jing Elec­tron Positron Col­lider, boosted in­dus­trial devel­op­ment in the field of mi­crowaves, magnets, vac­uum tech­nique, pre­ci­sion ma­chin­ery, elec­tron­ics and com­puter tech­nol­ogy. In the lat­est up­grade of the col­lider, com­pleted in 2009, 85 per­cent of the equip­ment came from Chi­nese sup­pli­ers.

“Yang has said that most of the equip­ment for the Cir­cu­lar Elec­tron Positron Col­lider will come from for­eign sup­pli­ers, but that is not true,” Wang said. “For such a large project, it would be im­pos­si­ble to pur­chase most parts from over­seas.”

Yang did not re­spond to emails from China Daily.

A par­ti­cle col­lider ac­cel­er­ates subatomic par­ti­cles to very high speeds and main­tains them in small, con­sis­tent beams.

In high-en­ergy physics ex­per­i­ments, two streams of subatomic par­ti­cles trav­el­ing in op­po­site di­rec­tions col­lide at near the speed of light to break the par­ti­cles apart, so that physi­cists can use spe­cial de­tec­tors to an­a­lyze the bro­ken par­ti­cles in search of even smaller par­ti­cles.

For decades, physi­cists across the globe have been try­ing to find par­ti­cles that could chal­lenge the so-called Stan­dard Model — a the­ory grad­u­ally de­vel­oped over the lat­ter half of the 20th cen­tury that re­lates to con­cepts such as elec­tro­mag­netism and nu­clear in­ter­ac­tion, and also at­tempts to clas­sify all known subatomic par­ti­cles.

DE­NIS BALIBOUSE / REUTERS

The Com­pact Muon Solenoid, a gen­eral-pur­pose de­tec­tor, is seen at the Large Hadron Col­lider at the Euro­pean Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Nu­clear Re­search in Geneva, Switzer­land.

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