In 2010, when scientists were preparing to smash the first particles together within the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), sections of the media fantasized that the EU-wide experiment might create a black hole that could swallow and destroy our planet. How on Earth, columnists fumed, could scientists justify such a dangerous indulgence in the pursuit of abstract, theoretical knowledge?
But particle accelerators are much more than enormous toys for scientists to play with. They have practical uses too, though their sheer size has, so far, prevented their widespread use. Now, as part of large-scale European collaboration, my team has published a report that explains in detail how a far smaller particle accelerator could be built – closer to the size of a large room, rather than a large city.