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Next physics mega-project could boost the local economy

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Some of the brightest scientists in the world have gathered in Vancouver to discuss what’s next for high-end physics.

When you start talking about quarks, anti-electrons and the Higgs boson, most people get lost very quickly. But there are real-world implications, as TRIUMF at UBC hosts a meeting of the leaders of the major high-energy physics laboratories around the globe, including a potential boost to the local economy if a major, multi-country project goes ahead.

“Just as Lester B. Pearson was positioning Canada as a broker or peacemaker for getting other countries to come together, today TRIUMF here in Vancouver is hosting two international meetings of the directors of the world’s major physics laboratories. We have about 24 VIPs here from places like Korea, China, Japan, CERN, Germany, the US and other countries,” says Tim Meyer, Head of Strategic Planning & Communications at TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics.

“What’s significant about this meeting is it’s getting together the leaders of the world-wide particle physics community. Essentially, we uncovered what we think is the Higgs boson, this fundamental particle that helps give everything mass, last July. In part, this is a summit to look at some ordinary business activities and to look at the question of what’s next, or even if there is a ‘what’s next’,” Meyer tells News1130.

“There is a potential new project on the table; we’re talking about five, eight, 10 years into the future. But these things take a long time to agree on and then a long time to build and get the science out. In some sense, a day after a victory is a good time to start thinking about the future.”

That potential project is the Linear Collider which, if built, would be the world’s next accelerator project aimed at pulling back the curtain on the secrets of nature’s innermost workings. The collider would be a $10 billion international collaboration with Japan one of the countries hoping to host the project.

“It’s billions of dollars, but it’s spread out over 10 or 20 years, a significant investment into finding out where the universe came from and how it behaves. But there’s a more practical economic benefit, too,” adds Meyer.

“This a project too big for any one country to pull off so it’s opportunity for countries that may have economic, political or cultural differences to pull together on a scientific quest. A project like this brings the world a step closer together.”

“If you look at what Canada stands to benefit, TRIUMF is Canada’s isotope laboratory and we’re using accelerator technology for a new project that will go live in the next two or three years to make medical isotopes. That technology uses five of these accelerator elements manufactured by [PAVAC Industries in Richmond], one of only five companies in the world that can make this device.”

“This new linear collider project would require 17,000 of these components. You can imagine that our colleagues in Richmond and some other Canadian companies are eager to see if this project happens,” he explains.

“It’s a significant business opportunity, you could run your business on making these cavity components for a decade. In that sense there is a real world impact in creating jobs and keeping technology moving.”

The meetings run today and tomorrow at TRIUMF; the key outcome will be the completion of an existing global collaboration and the launch of a new team that will coordinate and advance global development for the Linear Collider.