There are two types of benefit that the LHC project produces for the UK. The less easily measured benefits are:
- new understanding of the physical world,
- training of world class scientists and engineers,
- maintenance of a vibrant, world class UK research base and,
- a leading role in a major international project.
More easily appreciated are the knowledge, expertise and technology that is spun off from the LHC and can be directly applied to development of new medical, industrial and consumer technologies (more...)
The science of the LHC is far removed from everyday life, but the fact that the science is so extreme constantly pushes the boundaries of existing technical and engineering solutions. Simply building the LHC has generated new technology.
The LHC is not primarily about building a better world. Rather, it allows us to test theories and ideas about how the Universe works, its origins and evolution. The questions asked, and answers found, are so fundamental that the information from LHC experiments will only be applied many years in the future, if at all. However, this is an experiment and one of the surprises from the experiment may be new science that can be applied almost immediately.
Apart from fulfilling a quest for knowledge, studying particle physics provides wider benefits to society. Cancer therapy, medical and industrial imaging, radiation processing, electronics, measuring instruments, new manufacturing processes and materials, Information Technology, the WWW, are just some of the many technologies developed at CERN during research in particle physics.
These benefits are felt particularly in medicine. For example, about 20 million people each year undergo diagnosis using radio-pharmaceuticals. A well known form of this is the Positron Emission Tomography, or PET scan, whose development owes much to CERN and the Geneva Cantonal Hospital as the forerunners of the detectors used in these scanners were developed initially as particle detectors for experiments at CERN.
In the most recent development proton accelerators are now being adopted for hadron therapy. The advantage of protons is that they deposit all their energy in the same place, making them ideal for treating tumours near to delicate organs. CERN is now contributing to research that uses carbon ions instead of protons, which can be managed as precisely but can have higher energies.
Further information is available at Particle Physics – It matters (PDF - link opens in a new window)
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