Japan puts plans for the world’s next big particle collider on hold

The proposed accelerator would help physicists study Higgs boson particles in detail

International Linear Collider

ON ICE  Contrary to expectations, the Japanese government is still withholding judgment on whether to host the International Linear Collider (illustrated), a particle accelerator proposed to investigate the Higgs boson.  


Physicists awaiting approval to build the world’s first “Higgs factory” will have to wait a while longer.

Japan had been expected to decide by March 7 whether it would host the International Linear Collider — a particle smasher that would produce subatomic particles called Higgs bosons far more efficiently than CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. Instead, Japanese officials encouraged the International Committee for Future Accelerators, which oversees the ILC project, to seek partnerships with other governments and funding agencies to help Japan construct the multibillion-dollar accelerator.

“We don’t see it as a dead end,” committee Chair Geoffrey Taylor, a physicist at the University of Melbourne in Australia, said at a news conference streamed live online after the meeting. “We see it as a delay.”

By producing multitudes of Higgs bosons, the proposed ILC would allow scientists to study these particles in unprecedented detail (SN: 2/16/19, p.14). The ILC is currently the most well-developed blueprint for such a “Higgs factory.” But if Japan continues to drag its feet on committing to the ILC, other next-gen accelerators proposed for construction in China and Europe may instead become the world’s hubs for Higgs research.

“We do not have any clear deadline” for when the Japanese government will pass final judgment on the ILC, said Tatsuya Nakada, a physicist at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland who heads the committee’s Linear Collider Board.

Previously the staff writer for physical sciences at Science News, Maria Temming is the assistant managing editor at Science News Explores. She has bachelor's degrees in physics and English, and a master's in science writing.

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