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Will we ever know what the universe is made of?

CrowdScience finds out if there’s a limit to what physicists at CERN can discover.

We are all made of particles – but what are particles made of? It’s a question that’s been perplexing scientists for centuries - for so long, in fact, that listener Doug in Canada wants to know if there’s a limit to how much they can ever discover.

CrowdScience heads out to CERN, in Switzerland, to find out. Birthplace of the internet, home to the Large Hadron Collider, and the site of the Higgs Boson’s discovery – the fundamental particle that is thought to give all other particles their mass, and one of the most important scientific finds of the 21st Century. But that revelation wasn’t an end to the quest – in fact, it has raised many more questions for the physicists and engineers involved. Dr David Barney, CMS, and Dr Tara Nanut, LHCb, tell us why.

And now they have announced that they are considering building a new, larger particle collider to find answers. The Future Circular Collider would be a hundred kilometres long and sited partly under Lake Geneva, smashing together sub-atomic particles at unprecedented energies in the hope of revealing the fundamental building blocks of all matter in the Universe. But any outcomes are by no means certain, and it could cost up to €29 billion. Perhaps physicists need to think completely differently about how to unpick what makes our universe – we see how one research team at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford is doing just that, as they’re developing a collider that is not kilometres but centimetres long. Dr Charlotte Palmer, University of Oxford, tells us how.

However these fundamental questions are tackled, critics say that the money could be better spent on other research areas such as combating climate change. But supporters argue that its discoveries could uncover new technologies that will benefit future generations in ways we can’t predict. Anand Jagatia meets the scientists responsible to making this next giant leap into the quantum unknown.

(Photo: CMS experiment at CERN, Switzerland. Photo credit: CERN)

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