Nature is much smarter than us. It might come up with a real surprise and that would be much more interesting - much more satisfying - Professor Jim Virdee, Imperial College London
At the foot of the Jura Mountains, where Switzerland meets France, is a laboratory so vast it boggles the mind.
But take a drive past the open fields, traditional chalets and petite new apartment blocks and you will look for it in vain. To find this enormous complex, you have to travel beneath the surface. One hundred metres below Geneva's western suburbs is a dimly lit tunnel that runs in a perfect circle for 27km (17 miles).
The tunnel belongs to CERN, the European Centre for Nuclear Research. Though currently empty, over the next two years an enormous experiment will be installed here.
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a powerful and impossibly complicated machine that will smash particles together at super-fast speeds in a bid to unlock the secrets of the Universe.
By recreating the searing-hot conditions fractions of a second after the Big Bang, scientists hope to see new physics, discover the sought-after "God particle", uncover new dimensions and even generate mini-black holes.
When completed, two parallel tubes will carry high-energy particles called protons in opposite directions around the tunnel at close to the speed of light. The tunnel's huge circumference provides only the slightest of bends. Nevertheless, 5,000 superconducting magnets are needed to steer and focus the particles around the tubes.
"When the coils are energised there is one jumbo jet - 500 tonnes - pushing outwards," says LHC project leader Lyn Evans. Along the way, the proton beams will pass through enormous experimental instruments called detectors where they will cross.
When some of these protons collide at high energy, smaller, heavier particles can appear amongst the debris. When the LHC is turned on in the latter half of 2007, physicists will scour this crash wreckage for signs of the Higgs boson. The Higgs is nicknamed the God particle because of its importance to the Standard Model, the theory devised to explain how sub-atomic particles interact with each other.
The 16 particles that make up this model (12 matter particles and 4 force carrier particles) would have no mass if considered alone. So another particle - the Higgs boson - is postulated to exist to account for this omission.
Link: BBC Science/Nature.