Muon collider could make for a cheap, efficient 'Higgs factory'

Yes, we've probably found the Higgs boson. Hooray! But in order to explore the properties of this new particle, we're gonna need a whooole bunch of 'em, and the Large Hadron Collider isn't really designed for that. Maybe what we really need is a completely new collider: a "Higgs factory."

While the LHC was, to some extent, designed to detect the Higgs, it's really more of a general purpose machine. This is partially because nobody was really sure where exactly to find the Higgs, and partially because if you're going to spend $10 billion on the darn thing, it had better be good for doing lots of different stuff. But now that we have a good idea of where to find the Higgs, we can design a machine from the ground up to pump 'em out in droves and not do anything else, giving us a nice big supply of Higgses to poke and prod and analyze.

This new machine would be another particle collider, called a muon collider. Instead of colliding protons (like the LHC chiefly does), it would collide muons, which are sort of like electrons, except that they're fat, having the same charge but 200x the mass. Anyway, when you collide a muon with an anti-muon, you can (briefly) get yourself a Higgs boson, which then decays into a top quark and a top antiquark. You don't get anything else from a muon / anti-muon collision, but you do get (relatively) a lot of Higgses, and this sort of collider would only need to be about a hundredth the size of the LHC and therefore far cheaper to build and operate.

Physicists have been wanting to build one of these things for a decade or so, but there's a real chance at it now since it would be a much more efficient way to start producing piles of Higgs bosons. Plus, the only other way on the table to go about making these things involves a massive new collider that can smash electrons and positrons, which would be totally cool but would cost another $20 billion. Will a muon collider happen? We'll see, but if there's ever going to be a time to build one, it's now.

Via New Scientist

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